19 August 2009

What would Martin say?

Our sister community of faith, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America faces two storms today and it survived both.

First, while the convention was debating sexuality, a tornado hit Minneapolis and "nicked" the building in which the delegates were meeting.

If that wasn't enough, later in the day the delegates passed a social statement on homosexuality. From the Lutheran blog:

The jolt [from the tornado] was reinforced a short time later when the highest governing body of the ELCA voted 676-338, or 66.67 percent to 33.33 percent, to adopt the controversial sexuality statement. Social statements of the ELCA must be approved by a two-thirds vote. A change of one yes vote to a no would have rejected the statement. [Emphasis added]

Some are calling this a "close vote." Well, if by that one means "one vote" would have defeated the statement, then it was a close vote. But look at the numbers: two-thirds of the delegates voted 'yes.' That's a huge number.

Remember, too, that in the ELCA the delegates aren't the free agents TEC delegates are. The delegates reflect the thinking back home, for the most part. Two years ago there was a study which almost 4/5 of the ELCA congregations went though about homosexuality. The ELCA membership is much more informed about the theology behind the change than members of TEC are.

The social statement recognizes that the ELCA membership is divided on issues of same-gender relationships and calls for "profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor," including same-sex couples.

God has used this calling to bind us to each other in surprising ways, despite our disagreements, and to change us all ...

The ELCA recognizes that it has a pastoral responsibility to all children of God. This includes a pastoral responsibility to those who are same-gender in their orientation and to those who are seeking counsel about their sexual self-understanding. All are encouraged to avail themselves of the means of grace and pastoral care...

The social statement also addresses trust, marriage, family, sexual education for and the safety of youth, sexual exploitation, and adult cohabitation. It opposes "non-monogamous, promiscuous or casual sexual relationships."

Several attempts to change the wording of the document or delete portions of it to make it more traditional or conservative were defeated.

On Friday the delegates will vote to amend the rules governing ordained ministers. If the recommendation is adopted, it would allow the rostering of gays and lesbians in committed relationships. The proposal, which will likely be voted on Friday, needs only a majority vote to pass.

Considering Martin Luther left the monastery and married a former nun, I wonder what he would say about this week's developments.

Let's pray that a second tornado hits the ELCA convention and they open the ordained ministry to partnered same-gender clergy.

UPDATE: Fr. Jake has an excellent post on this subject at Fr. Jake Stops the World.