Friday, August 21, 2009

can you believe it?

I am tired and overwhelmed after the day of excitement. I never would have predicted that the ELCA would pass resolutions that give permission to perform blessings of same-sex couples, ordination of GLBT people and rostering of GLBT people all in the same day. It seemed that once the assembly passed a resolution to respect the "bound conscience" of those who might disagree with these resolutions, the rest moved along with some minor amendments. There was considerable debate about the ordination and rostering questions but both passed easily. In fact, the last resolution of rostering had a wide margin.
There is a lot of concern about whether individuals and/or congregations will leave the ELCA and Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen gave a passionate plea for everyone to stay and work all this out together. Those of us in ELM talked about how we could tell those opposed to the resolutions that we understand how they feel, as we have been disappointed by the outcome of these votes for many years. But we also know there is a difference between choosing to leave and never really being allowed in. Yes, we did have the choice to leave, but it was a very different choice. I hope that there are ways to work through some of our disagreements because sometimes working through conflict can make a relationship stronger. We have too many important issues in our church and our world to spend to much time bickering. There is healing that needs to occur on both sides and those of us who "won" today will have to be careful as we move forward that we do not become the new oppressors. We have a new day in the ELCA and I hope the Spirit will continue to blow through it as a mighty wind, bringing all kinds of new ways to live out the Gospel .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big happenings today

In case you have not heard yet, many good things happened today. The HIV/AIDS strategy went forward and the big news of the day was the weather. In the middle of an intense discussion, we were told we all had to stay inside the plenary hall and all those who were in the outside hallway were moved in. The sirens went off and we were told there was a tornado warning, not that unusual for Minnesota in august. A fellow pastor from the Bay area did not know what to think and I reassured her that everything would be ok. We heard a short time later that a tornado actually touched down, doing some damage to the roof of the convention center, knocked down trees and the spire of Central Lutheran across the street. No one was hurt and we were all grateful.
The conversation in the mean time got heated as all the amendments to the Social Statement on Human sexuality was being discussed, some even using the tornado as a metaphor.
None of the amendments that would have set justice back passed.And then they voted on the Social Statement. It needed 2/3 to pass and the percentage of yes votes was 66.67. We looked at the numbers more than once because we couldn't believe that it was that close to failure. A little later, people tried to ask for reconsideration and made comments they were not sure their votes were counted but the bishop ruled them out of order.
I went from this wonderful news to the Goodsoil worship service at Central. It was a full house, the biggest Goodsoil worship we have had, Barbara Lundblad preached a wonderful sermon(of course she always preaches well). Everyone was in good spirits and the worship was uplifting and joyful.
The best part of today is that I get to go to bed tonight feeling affirmed by my church!!! The Holy Spirit is blowing through this assembly and I am more confident that the change in ministry policies might actually happen. I think after that vote, I will be able to breath again and process all that is happening this week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Less anxiety today

It is resolved that the changes in ministry policies would not require a 2/3 vote, so today there was a noticable change in people's appearance. They appeared less anxious. The agenda seemed a little lighter today as well. The vice president gave his report, and I have to admit I checked out since it seemed the same as the report he gave at the synod assembly.
There was a long discussion on a new the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. There was a good deal of excitement for this initiative which would provide treated mosquito nets, medications and other provisions with a starting grant from the United Nations Foundation. However, even with all the excitement about this, 11 people voted no. A good example that you can never please everyone.
The social statement was discussed in a quasi-committee of the whole which means the bishop still chaired, but it was only a discussion. No resolutions allowed. Once again, the two "sides" have very different interpretations and approaches to scripture which allowed both to use scripture with different results. Some people spoke very well, but there is no brand new argument. Of course, there probably isn't one.
I attended a hearing on the ministry policy changes. It was a time that asked a lot of questions and did not make many arguments or statements for or against. Those who did make statements in favor of the changes spoke with more conviction. There were was one passionate person against.
Goodsoil had a panel discussion for voting members which included pastors and their families sharing stories. It was a good panel but unfortunately it was mostly preaching to the choir.

Monday, August 17, 2009

So far, so good

The first day of assembly is over. It is wonderful being able to catch up with seminary classmates, old friends and bishops. I had dinner with the bishop from the Sierra Pacific synod and met an Associate in Ministry. The opening worship was a good with a wonderful sermon by the presiding bishop focusing on fear; how debilitating it is, how it gets in the way of the movement of the Holy Spirit and how it is good to let go of it
Now the good news for the day. All attempts to require a 2/3 vote on changes to ministry policies were defeated. More than one speaker against the 2/3 vote discussed the fact that the current policies did require a 2/3 vote, so a 2/3 vote should not be required to change it, good point.
Another move the conservatives tried to make was to require that the ministry policies be voted on in a progressive fashion like the Task Force recommended. So, for example, they would have to approve same-gender blessing before they could consider allowing gay or lesbian pastors. A member of the Task force, who was also a seminary classmate of mine, spoke in favor of it but she and those I am calling conservatives were not successful at getting the motion passed.
I pray that the spirit of change will blow through the assembly this whole week.

I have arrived!

I am at the hotel and am unpacking. I spent last evening with my parents for a nice visit. I happened to be checking in right next to Carl Braaten. He did his best to ignore me :(
I am looking forward to connecting at Goodsoil Central as I am about to head over there.
So far, so good!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Interesting article to read on

Could it be that we are close to getting change?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I bit of encouragement before the assembly

Some statememnts from the public research blog:
Seven-in-ten ELCA clergy say that the gospel message requires full inclusion of LGBT people in the church, and a majority of ELCA clergy supports ordination of gay and lesbian clergy. A plurality of ELCA clergy support performing civil marriages where legal. A majority (53%) of ELCA clergy report that their views on LGBT issues are more liberal today than they were a decade ago. The Clergy Voices Survey was conducted by mail among a national random sample of senior clergy serving congregations in the seven largest Mainline Protestant denominations.
It seems all our hard work is paying off!!