Today is the day. On the agenda: The four recommendations of the ELCA Sexuality Task Force, which--if passed--lead to the conditions under which a lesbian or gay pastor in a "publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous same gender relationship" could serve an ELCA church. We're not quite actually affirming the right to call a gay or lesbian pastor, since we're still allowing congregations (and perhaps synods, bishops, etc.--it's not clear) to respect their own "bound consciences" by refusing to call someone. It's a step on the pathway to full inclusion, and a good one.
I need to be in the hall, so will cheat and give you the ELCA News Service report on what has happened so far. Nutshell: We moved the resolution calling on ELCA members to respect one another's bound consciences to number one and approved it after lengthy conversation. (And can I just say that it is baffling to me that people would actually stand at a microphone and argue about whether or not we should respect one another. I wonder sometimes if they actually listen to what they're saying. A guy actually said earlier that "the purpose of the church is to provide standards for rostered leaders." Yes, he said "the." Definite article. Tautological argument. The church exists to provide standards for leaders of the church. Here I thought it was to be about Christ's mission on earth. Silly me.)
The second item up was Recommendation Two, which allowed for congregations that wish to do so to publicly affirm "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships." A lot of conversation again (though I think less than on the first recommendation, which is bizarre to me). Then the question was called, and it passed by just over sixty percent and we cried, likely not for the last time today.
Back at the beginning of the day, the former governor of Minnesota (and what's with Minnesota governors?) offered a substitute to the four recommendations which mirrored the current policy language. Blah, blah, blah, and it received just 33.9 percent. We see there, though, that the supermajority would not have carried, so that vote on Monday is looming large. Speaking of which, they tried it again, inviting the Assembly to vote on whether a two-thirds majority should be required for resolutions related to ministry policy. It recieved just over forty percent, seven percent less than it received on Monday. They should probably quit while behind.
On a personal note, I am tired tired tired, but feeling wonderful. Colleen has been an amazing partner, supportive, helpful and loving. I am so glad to be here to witness this moment in the life of the church. And am going back to witnessing it now.
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Voting members of the 2009 Churchwide Assemblyof the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are in the middle oftaking steps to make it possible for the Lutherans in same-genderrelationships to serve as professional leaders in the denomination.The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA,is meeting here Aug. 17-23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About2,000 people are participating, including 1,045 ELCA voting members. Thetheme for the biennial assembly is "God's work. Our hands."Voting members have begun considering four distinct resolutions Aug.21, which are designed to change current ELCA policy that requires thedenomination's professional leaders to abstain from "homosexual sexualrelationships."The resolutions are contained in a report and recommendation onministry policies developed by the Task Force for the ELCA Studies onSexuality.A majority vote is required to pass each of the four resolutions.With a 771-230 vote, the assembly amended and approved a resolutionthat states "that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministrypolicies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another's burdens, love theneighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all."With a 619-402 vote, the assembly approved a second resolution thatcommits the ELCA "to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to doso to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountably life-long,monogamous, same-gender relationships."Prior to considering the two resolutions, voting members defeated a"substitute" motion with a 344-670 vote to strike out all four resolutionsand replace it with the following: "rostered leadership of this church whoare homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain fromhomosexual sexual relations and practicing homosexual persons areprecluded from rostered leadership in this church." Albert Quie, votingmember from the ELCA Minneapolis Synod, made the substitute motion.As voting members were considering resolution two, Edward A. Kirst,voting member from the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, made a motion torequire a two-thirds vote -- instead of a majority -- for approving theremaining resolutions. That motion was defeated with a 407-576 vote.During the afternoon plenary, voting members will consider the tworemaining resolutions -- that the denomination find a way for Lutherans insame-sex relationships to serve as ordained ministers and otherprofessional leadership roles in the church, and that the denominationconsider a proposal for how it will exercise flexibility within existingstructures and practices to allow for Lutherans in same-sex relations tobe approved for professional service in the church.