Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"

The best part of doing a blog is the conversation that takes place in the "comments" section. I follow a few dozen church-related sites and occasionally participate in the back-and-forth that occurs between other readers. I hope that koinonia readers have a similar experience.

I was disappointed to discover that a popular Lutheran blog might not have the same philosophy.

Yesterday I read an article on Pretty Good Lutherans, a site run by Susan Hogan. The topic was the Augsburg Fortress pension circumstance. (More info here) After some fact-sharing and editorializing about the termination of the defined benefit compensation retirement plan, Hogan offered a sample resolution for people to make at synod assemblies, a memo from ELCA Secretary David Swartling, and a response from ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson.

Both the tone of Hogan's article and the accusations made within the reader comments didn't sit right with I decided to offer a comment of my own:

Pastors and other church leaders calling for Beth Lewis to be fired. Rostered leaders bashing David Swartling for being a lawyer. Baiting readers into an emotional frenzy with leading questions and accusatory statements.

This doesn’t sound like a group of “Pretty Good Lutherans”.

What happened with the AFP pensions is regrettable, but why the need to slander Lewis and Swartling as an expression of outrage?

Not a single person who has commented on this blog post knows the whole story, and yet many are passing judgment on individuals as though they are fully informed. Furthermore, even if you do know the whole story, why the personal attacks? I’d like to think that pastors and other church leaders are above such tactics.

I’m sure pastors would be upset if church members publicly called them out while using incomplete information and speculation. Why the double standard?

Certainly there’s a better way of showing support to the former AFP employees than slinging accusations and assuming the worst out of Lewis, Swartling, et al.

You won't see this comment on Pretty Good Lutherans because it didn't get approved. I inquired (via Twitter and the PGL website) about why my comment wasn't added to the conversation.

No reply.

Therefore I'm left to speculate as to why I wasn't added to the growing list of comments. Did I violate a code-of-conduct with my remarks? Is Hogan concerned that I serve on a Churchwide task force with Swartling...or that I write for Augsburg Fortress...or that my dad is on the Augsburg board of trustees? Is there no room for dissenting opinions to be shared on Pretty Good Lutherans? I wish I had been given the courtesy of a response, even if it was simply to say "I don't approve of your comment."

Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Two reasons:

  • When writers, church leaders, and blog readers claim to love Lutherans, but use their network of influence to mistreat fellow Lutherans with whom they disagree, the church is weakened. It may feel good to use the Internet as a place to publicly vent about frustrations with certain people, but it weakens the body of Christ and our public witness when we do this.

  • I dislike blog censorship as it pertains to civil discourse. If a person doesn't use inappropriate language, make threats of violence or verbal attacks...why remove their comment? If a person says something foolish, let them stand on the merits of their words and allow other readers to question their insights. As a website that is widely read and highly regarded in the Lutheran community, Pretty Good Lutherans has an obligation to be forthcoming and transparent in its initial reporting and with reader feedback. I hope that I'm the only one who has been given the silent treatment, but if I'm not, and there are others who are being omitted from the conversation, that's a shame.

I'm sure Susan Hogan is a fine person. We had a very pleasant meeting a few months ago. She has graciously linked to several things I've written, and she does a wonderful job of highlighting some unique ministries within the ELCA. I mean her no ill-will. If Susan would like to respond to my original comment about the pension situation or the content of what I have written here, she is more than welcome to do so on koinonia...even if I disagree with what she has to say.

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