The New direction of the ELCA?
Read that all here. If you think that's just a passing matter of notice, look at the quote in the Argus today from the bishop-elect:
When the South Dakota Mainstream Coalition was initially formed in June 2005, many people, especially Republicans, had lots of questions. Since then, few of those questions have been answered.
The Coalition was founded by seven South Dakota Republican senators: Ed Olson of Mitchell, Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls, Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls, Stan Adelstein of Rapid City, Royal “Mac” McCracken of Rapid City, J.P. Duniphan of Rapid City, and Duane Sutton of Aberdeen.
The group of so-called moderates formed the Coalition because they felt their disagreement with the Republican base on a number of issues was not welcome. According to a report by David Kranz in the Argus Leader, executive director Senator Ed Olson of Mitchell said that the battle over the life and death of Terri Schiavo was the catalyst for the formation of the group. The same article also quoted Olson as saying, "Many of us don't like the idea of putting specific religious beliefs into state law."
Also regarding the formation of the coalition, Adelstein said, “In some ways, it comes down to religion.”
Permanent officers and board members have since been elected: Ed Olson is the executive director, former state rep. Mel Olson of Mitchell is the chairman, and former state senator Arlene Ham is vice chairman. Other members include former state health secretary Katherine Kinsman, former state director for Rep. Bill Janklow David Volk, Dakota Wesleyan University president Bob Duffett, Reverend Dave Zellmer of Pierre, banker Gary Schofield, former state rep. Jan Nicolay, and Reverend Kathryn Timpany of Sioux Falls.
As a bishop, Zellmer also must confront the larger issues that have roiled his denomination in later years.Read that whole article here. He's been elected to a position of leadership for tens of thousands of South Dakotans, and one of the first things he feels he should address to South Dakotans is the gay marriage amendment that was decided last year?
Everyone in the state dealt with one issue, he said, pointing to last fall's constitutional amendment declaring marriage only between a man and a woman.
"I was not comfortable with the way it was worded," Zellmer said. "Not because of gay and lesbian people but how it might affect older folks. And I have some concerns about heterosexual couples living together without benefit of marriage."
Now, I'm not going to throw stones at this point, but let's just say that the previously expressed agenda of the founders of the MAINstream coalition seems a bit far off from what you would expect of the more devout on issues such as abortion and the definition of marriage.
It also brings into question whether or not this represents a ideological shift in the ELCA in South Dakota towards Democratic Party tendencies at the same time that mainstream Catholicism shifts more towards conservative values and the GOP. I'm convinced that religious realignment such as this signals tons of uncertainty in expectations for traditional political coalitions.
Only time will tell where it all falls out.
*Update* - hold the farm. I had a note from one of the readers, BK - who was there at the election. He notes that I'm not looking in the right place (Argus and MAINnstream Board membership). And that we should instead compare Zellmer to the outgoing Bishop, making this actually a conservative shift for the group.
So, who's correct?