August 19, 2009
Close as it gets, times two
Talk about close calls. First a tornado struck the far end of the building hosting the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA on Wednesday, followed by voting members approving a social statement on human sexuality by one vote.
Sirens and announcements marked the approach of the storm that raked Minneapolis. Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson told the more than 1,000 voting members to stay in the assembly hall. He later informed the crowd that a tornado nipped the building and damaged the steeple of nearby Central Lutheran Church. Minneapolis media reported no injuries.
The jolt 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.
The document acknowledges that members are of divided views on same-gender relationships. It calls for "profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor," including same-sex couples. It also addresses a wide range of issues, such as 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.
Still to be considered are proposed changes to rules governing those admitted to the roster of the church, such as pastors, associates in ministry and deaconesses. If 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.