Greetings from Minneapolis, Land O' Lutherans!
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's eleventh Churchwide Assembly has begun. Last night the first Plenary session was held, and the session, scheduled for two and a half hours, only went over by slightly more than an hour. This is a vast improvement over the Orlando Assembly back in 2005, when the first session went until 11:30 at night. Our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, joked that it was 11:30 in Orlando when we ended, so those who had money in a pool should probably consider it a draw. He is a real card, our bishop.
This session went long, just as did the one in Orlando, because up for consideration was a change in the proceeding which would require a 2/3 "supermajority" to change the current ministry standards in the ELCA. This is a maneuver by conservatives to keep the standards as they are: sans homosexual participation.
A little backstory: We have reached the end of an eight year process of study mandated by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA convened a Sexuality Task Force, wrote a Statement on Human Sexuality, and made recommendations on changing our ministry standards to allow congregations to call openly gay pastors if they wish to do so.
This is a big deal.
So the question came up: how much of a majority do we need to pass these ministry recommendations? The Social Statement will need 2/3, per the ELCA bylaws. But changing standards and practices is usually a simple majority vote. The Church Council (the one for the whole church) recommended to recommend a simple majority, which is what it took to enact the policies, so there's some parity there.
The conversation was lllonnnng, and it veered rapidly into debate over the proposals, and not the procedures required to pass or deny them. Bishop Hanson admonished the speakers to avoid this veering, to little avail.
Long story short (too late!), the vote was evennnntually taken, and only forty-seven percent of the Assembly voted to require the supermajority. Since the change required a two-thirds vote, this means it failed by a bunch. Good start to the Assembly, I think.
Here's the News Service release:
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 18, 2009
ELCA Assembly Defeats Super-Majority Requirement
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Voting members of the biennial assembly of theEvangelical Lutheran Church in America turned back a motion that wouldhave required a two-thirds majority for changes in policies relating to the rostering of clergy, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses. The vote, with 57 percent in opposition, came late in the evening of the first day of the gathering. A vote to allow people living in committed same-gender relationships to be on the professional rosters of the ELCA is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21.The action leaves in place a recommendation that a simple majority vote be sufficient for the proposed policy changes. By vote of 979-24 the assembly adopted the order of business as recommended.