Posted by: smstrouse | January 27, 2011

Would Keith Olbermann Rejoin the ELCA?

WWKD?  I wonder because the questions have started up again.  “Will First United be coming back to the ELCA?” “Where’s First United in the process of rejoining the ELCA?”  Interest in what’s up with us has flared again since St. Francis will officially go back into the fold next month. To all who ask we reply that we’ve spoken to a representative from the Sierra Pacific Synod and we’ve been looking at changes that would have to be made in our constitution in order to bring it into compliance with the ELCA. Beyond that, no decisions have yet been made.

The interesting thing is about this is that for every person asking, “Why wouldn’t you?” there is one asking “Why would you?”  Each side assumes its reasonableness and correctness. I can’t say which way First United will ultimately decide.  But I can’t help thinking about Keith Olbermann.  What would Keith do, I wonder.

Those who aren’t familiar with the MSNBC’s “Countdown Keith Olbermann” may not know that Keith unexpectedly announced last Friday night that he was leaving the show immediately. The reason for this sudden departure has been shrouded in mystery; Keith himself is being unusually quiet. There is speculation that it might have something to do with the impending takeover of NBC by Comcast.  Maybe, maybe not, but it will be important to know what happened between commentator and corporation, that this outspoken, yes sometimes controversial, voice of liberal politics has been silenced – at least for now. 

I think of this in respect to the decision before us of rejoining the ELCA.  Twenty years ago, First United faced the discipline of ecclesiastical power, first suspension, then expulsion.  In the ensuing years, this small congregation has not been silent  on matters of justice.  There have been many ways of expressing our positions on issues, such as inclusive language and marriage equality, freed from denominational ties.  So the invitation to return raises questions of the relationship between the individual congregation and the ‘parent corporation’.

Is it easier to ‘speak truth to power’ from within or without?  We are being courted now, but it was  not always so. Who’s to say it won’t happen again with our next bit of ecclesiastical disobedience? On the other hand, might we be better able to address issues of justice from a larger platform, while also effecting change within the system?

So Keith, where are you? What would you say?  What would you do? 

How about you?  Comments welcome.



  1. Dear Susan,

    I think you know where I stand on the issue of First United coming back into the ELCA. I’m not sure exactly how Keith Olbermann relates to First United. Unfortunately, I do not see Olbermann as a particularly effective spokesperson for liberal or progressive views; more often than not, he is as irritating, perhaps intentionally so, as Rush Limbaugh, the big fat idiot on the other side. I tend to not listen to either of these two commentators.

    I do feel that the ELCA perhaps may need First United’s witness on matters of justice more than First United needs the ELCA. In any case, I am sure that First United will continue to speak truth to power within or without the larger church. But I think that if the prophetic voice of First United is heard clearly within the church, its voice will resonate with many churches and be thereby strengthened, and the ELCA will enable First United to transmit that voice far beyond what is usually possible by a smallish, independent congregation.

    Peace to you and the congregation of First United as the process of discernment continues!

    Joe Haletky


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