The Daily Lutheran is the newsletter of the 9th Churchwide Assembly. It’s published by the staff of The Lutheran, the magazine of the ELCA. Editor: Sonia C. Solomonson. Writers: Elizabeth Hunter, Kathleen Kastilahn, Julie B. Sevig and Ann Hafften. Photographer: Michael D. Watson. Production editor: Andrea S. Pohlmann. Web production: Amber Leberman.
When the much-awaited time to discuss the Church Council recommendations on the ELCA Studies on Sexuality came Thursday, 31 voting members raised questions and concerns. More than that number remained standing at the 16 microphones at the end of the hour allotted to the “conversation” in the quasi-committee of the whole format.
Within minutes, a motion to reconvene for an additional hour to allow only those already registered to speak failed (534-411) to gain the required two-thirds majority.
Another motion asking the ad hoc committee on proposed amendments and substitute motions to order them from the most to the least change to each recommendation passed 722-228.
Most of the 31 voting members who did speak, each for two minutes, brought up biblical and theological concerns. Some talked of church practice and tradition. Others told personal stories.
They spoke to recommendation two—calling the ELCA to continue to be guided by the 1993 Conference of Bishops’ counsel to uphold ELCA policy, and to “trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples”—and to recommendation three—calling the church to uphold Vision and Expectations standards for rostered leaders, and also create a process for some exceptions for partnered gays and lesbians.
Kara Felde, Indiana-Kentucky Synod, said that not all young people agree on the issue of homosexuality: “I believe God loves all of us, but also what Scripture says—homosexual behavior is a sin.”
“Will we hold to Scripture?” asked David Glesne, Minneapolis Area Synod. “The crux is there is no biblical basis for change.”
But Frank Petrovic, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, pointed out, “We can all choose passages [from Leviticus]. ... ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’—now there’s a verse to quote! He called using the Bible to argue against change an “egregious sin.”
Theological issues raised included the concern of Christian Jennert, Sierra Pacific, who said he was trained in Germany in “good Lutheran theology and not biblical fundamentalism” and taught to always hold in tension “both and.”
Robert Benne, Virginia Synod, said, “This is a tectonic change that reaches back to 2,000 years of Christian teaching. The movement looks slight, but it’s an earthquake.”
Others, like Keith Forni, Northern Illinois Synod, anticipated problems with mission: “Churches in the global south have strongly urged us to adhere to tradition. Their stop sign is matched by most communities of color here.”
But Robert Rimbo, Southeast Michigan Synod, said the bishop in his companion synod reconsidered his opposition to the proposed recommendations on homosexuality when Rimbo told him about the difficulty the people here have with the practice of polygamy.
Several shared personal stories, including James Boline, Southwest California Synod: “I incarnate this issue. I’m a third-generation Lutheran pastor, and I share my life and ministry with my beloved partner, Christopher. ... I ask your prayers for me, refusing to be banished from this church.”
Connie Scharlau, La Crosse Area Synod, observed that voting members differed greatly as to recommendation three: “Each of us in this room must humbly acknowledge that we might be wrong.”
Some asked for clarity on recommendation two before Friday’s vote, including Robert Berg, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin: “We need clarification on whether pastoral care includes blessings [of same-sex unions.]. We’re going to make decisions that will impact the whole church.” â–
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