I decided not to go to the Churchwide Assembly this year. The Assembly started on Monday, and I've spent the week wishing I was in Chicago with my ECP colleagues and other friends from all over the church. (ECP: Extraordinary Candidacy Project; a roster of Lutheran candidates and ministers who will not pledge allegiance to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy.)
There were good reasons not to go to Churchwide. I can't really afford it, since we made an unexpected trip to San Francisco for a friend's ordination in June. A good part of the Assembly's time will be taken up once again with the topic of "human sexuality" (which is Church Speak for "those gay and lesbian people." Just once I'd love to see the Assembly have a tense, emotional conversation about heterosexual sexual activity.)
It's hard to go to these things. People walk to microphones and offer impassioned pleas to keep openly gay and lesbian candidates from becoming rostered pastors in the denomination we love. It's hard not to take those pleas personally, even though (to my knowledge) none of those people have ever known me, and don't likely know any of us who are serving openly. They probably do know some closeted pastors, though they may not know they do.
Still, I wish I was there. There is a ministry in being present. So I will be present in prayer, and hope that others in my congregation and other congregations across the church are also present in prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit, who is most certainly spending the week in Chicago.