4 Dec 2010 - Don’t mix church with agronomy

I always appreciate hearing from my readers and broadcast audience, apprising me of happenings of interest in their area that I would otherwise miss. They very often lead to a topic on Samuelson Sez which is the case this week.

I recently received a copy of a story that appeared in the Fargo Forum in North Dakota headlined “North Dakota Church Bolts Over ELCA Agricultural Proposal”. ELCA stands for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and I am a member of a church that is part of that Synod, so it really caught my attention. I know several churches across the country have withdrawn from the ELCA because of the Synod stand on certain social issues, but agriculture? What could the church be saying about agriculture that would offend a rural congregation?

The Synod is drafting a social statement on genetics, and the members of Anselm Lutheran Church in Sheldon, ND in the Red River Valley feel it is an attack on agriculture because it specifically relates to farmer’s use of genetic seeds. The ELCA’s draft statement says it views plant genetics “with hope and caution”, not necessarily because of the science or technology used, but because “ the greatest danger in genetic developments lies in the sinful exercise of radically extended human power” that could lead to other sin, such as “exalted pride” or “negligence or complacency”.

On an average Sunday, 30 people attend services at this tiny church and when the final count was taken, the vote to withdraw from the ELCA passed 29 to 4. Church Council President Jill Bunn said the congregation felt the church was making statements against farmers, in an area where 95% of the sugar beets are grown using genetically modified seed.

There is agreement in other rural ELCA churches on this issue. A fifth-generation farmer near Jamestown, ND offered these thoughts…”The basic principle I keep coming back to is that I do not believe it is the church’s place to give recommendations on farm management practices. We go to church to worship and study Scripture, but from there it is up to individuals to apply the lessons we’ve learned in our lives.”

I totally agree with the thinking of the members of Anselm Lutheran Church and others who wonder why the church takes the time to draft this type of policy. There are many other areas that do lead to “exalted pride” and “negligence or complacency”, and I would suggest the 18-member task force that worked on this proposal devote their time to more important issues. And I offer this thought as a member of an ELCA church, the Synod can’t afford to lose many more congregations.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.