Saturday, August 13, 2005

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

So this post I write not only standing up but dressed in my robe and stole. The pastors and candidates of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project are robed and visible outside the Assembly Hall in order to provide pastoral care to those who need it after yesterday's session. And no doubt to answer questions about why we would dare presume to become pastors in this church.

But mainly to care for those people who are upset over the decisions. If you have seen the news you may have read a bit about it. The short report is that the Assembly really declined to do much of anything. They allowed for "pastoral care" to same-sex couples, and withstood all attempts to answer the question "Does 'pastoral care' mean 'blessings of same-sex unions?'" Pretty much everyone seems to think it does. So pastors will continue to be allowed to exercise their discretion over the matter. That is a good thing, or at least better than a strict prohibition, for which some were arguing. The problem with that resolution is that it began with a bunch of restrictive language about "traditional marriage" and how the blessing of same-sex unions would be in no way equivalent.

We started the conversation about Resolution #3, which would have (maybe) allowed for an exception to the ELCA's Vision and Expectations statement, which precludes persons who are "homosexual in their self understanding" from being pastors in our church, unless we practice life-long celibacy. The first amendment to that resolution would have removed the statement re. "persons homosexual" and made one rule for everyone, gay or straight. That was defeated pretty handily. At that point about a hundred of us--the Goodsoil team--moved a barrier and went onto the Assembly floor. This move was carefully planned and executed. It was respectful and quiet. We simply stood at the front of the Assembly Hall. We thought if the Assembly was going to continue to talk about us, in sometimes ugly ways, they ought to be looking at us when they did so.

We knew when we did this that we were trespassing; visitors are not allowed on the Assembly floor. We also knew that the presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, did not want to have any of us arrested, and would do what he could to keep that from happening. There were some rumblings (we were, after all, breaking the rules and Lutherans like rules. I like rules). Some of the conservative folks did all that they could to have us removed, but the bishop asked that the Assembly return to its business and allow us to stay. There were several more attempts to get a ruling which would remove us, but they all failed.

So we stood, at the front. Quietly.

Ultimately, the Assembly rejected Resolution 3 by a vote of about 48% to 52%. Some are disappointed. I stand with my Goodsoil colleagues, brothers and sisters, in allowing that it was a bad resolution, so we are better off. It would have created a "separate but equal" situation in our church for those lucky enough to find bishops and synods who will let them through a tear in the church tent. Nah. We'll come in when we're invited through the front door.

So that's what's up for now. God is great. God is in charge. The Holy Spirit is moving across the ELCA, and that wind of grace and justice will blow where it will. We are neither in charge not innocent bystanders. We are all part of the Spirit's being, and the Spirit is in us.

Pastor Donna

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