Sunday, June 7, 2009. Lindsborg, KS. Central States Synod Assembly--Day Four.
This would be a very long blog entry if I tried to capture all of this Synod Assembly in a single article. So I'll try a few impressions first, with a promise to write more later. Right now I'm actually still sitting in a session, so just impressions for now.
First, the Synod Assembly is a yearly gathering of ELCA members, rostered leaders (clergy, Parish Ministry Associates, Associates in Ministry, etc.), synod staff, and churchwide leaders. The Central States Synod is comprised of all of the congregations and associations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in Kansas and Missouri. The Synod Assembly is the highest legislative body in our synod.
We've all been in Lindsborg, Kansas ("Little Sweden!") since Thursday afternoon. There's been lots of business, but really we've been focused on sex. Again. Not sex, really, but human sexuality. Not human sexuality, really, but homosexuality. And not homosexuality, really, but the burning question before our denomination: Will we let gay and lesbian persons who admit that they are not practicing celibacy to be pastors in our church?
We're also talking about the blessing of same-sex unions, but that issue doesn't seem to have the heat around it. Not sure yet what to make of that. It seems like the two are connected, actually...
We had conversation--a one hour "Committee of the Whole," more about this later--about a Statement on Human Sexuality which will be affirmed (we hope) by vote at the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis in August. We voted to memorialize (this is church speak for "ask") the Churchwide Assembly to affirm the Statement. That vote passed by one vote more than a two-thirds majority. A good mandate, I think.
We had conversation--another one hour Committee of the Whole--about the Recommendations of the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality. I'll say more about the conversation in a later entry. After lunch, we voted on memorials to churchwide affirming the recommendations, which would allow for the recognition of persons in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships," the rostering of such persons, and a commitment to "honor the bound conscience" of persons who disagree across our church.
Some quick thoughts:
Tone of the Assembly: Anxious but respectful. There were few nasty remarks made at the microphone, and the only time the listeners reacted to what was being said was when a guy started in with Sodom and Gomorrah, which he informed us is "about homosexuality." About a hundred people said "no" at the same time, which is an interesting sound. Then the chair told us to settle down.
Number of hugs, high fives, winks, pats on the back, fist bumps and collegial arms-around-the-shoulder I received: I have no idea. I lost count somewhere after a hundred. Apparently people want this change to happen, realize that I will be a big beneficiary of the change, and are okay with that.
Final proof that conservatives just don't get Jesus: The most fascinating line of the whole Assembly was uttered at a red microphone during the discussion of the ministry recommendations on Day Three. The gentleman, having waxed irritated for a minute or so about how he didn't understand why we're even doing this, said, "I've looked at the [Sexuality Statement], and as far as I can tell, it seems to be based on some kind of wishy-washy love thing.
Yes, we mustn't be making decisions based on some ethic of love. Egads.