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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

 

More from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly on Monday

The 11th ELCA Churchwide Assembly began with worship at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, August 17, 2009. It was a wonderful worship experience for me - grand music (many musicians plus the National Lutheran Choir) and fine preaching by Bishop Hanson.

In his sermon, Bishop Hanson noted, that, as the assembly proceedings begin, "it is important that fears are recognized and named" and "to recognize what fear and anxiety can do to us." "Fear nurtures the suspicion and cynicism that lead us to act in ways that are downright mean-spirited and anti-neighborly. Fear can drive us to make demands of others for our own security rather than faith freeing us to serve others with confidence and humility." But there is more to the story than fear in this assembly, Hanson said. "We will tell the story of Jesus Christ who is present in this assembly," he said. "This is the story that is waiting to be told about us." "Christ is the source of our joy" and "the source of our peace" in a world without peace, Hanson said. "And into that world Christ sends you and me and all gathered for this assembly," he said. "The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a sent church," sent to "share the good news and remember the poor." (Thanks to Melissa Ramirez Cooper of the ELCA news service for these quotes).

Before worship I had lunch with Ms. Marcia Holman, who, with her husband, Mark, is one of our ELCA missionaries in Jerusalem (the Holmans are supported by my congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale). After worship, I had a quick dinner with dear friends Rebecca and Stephen Larson (Rebecca is Executive Director of the ELCA Program Unit for Church in Society and Stephen is Senior Pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Park Ridge, Illinois).

The first plenary (business) session began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted until nearly 11:00 p.m. The first hour or so was instruction and introduction to the assembly's agenda, but most of this long evening session, as expected, was spent in debate over the assembly's rule which called for the vote on the proposed changes in ELCA ministry policies to be by a simple majority (this is the vote which would allow people in committed same-gender relationships to be professional leaders in the ELCA). More than an hour of debate later, the assembly voted NOT to change from the recommended simple majority to a 2/3 majority. 57% of voting members favored staying with the recommended rule for a simple majority. In my opinion, this will make the recommended changes in ministry policies more likely to be approved later this week. The debate was marked by civility and fairness. While I did not hear any new arguements on either "side" of this debate, there was full discussion with all points of view welcomed and heard.

A short night of sleep followed.

Comments:
Hi Eric: My name is jerry vorce and I belong to St. Johns in Boyertown and help Sr. Millicent with office duties. I read your blog and I am concerned that a vote would approve same sex marriages or pastors who have proclaimed their same sex preferences. My concerns are what happens to the children in all of those instances. The catholic church gives us a reference point in regards to the damage it has done to children. I have heard the religious proclaim that we must be fair and open minded to give this new concept a chance. I for one would suggest to look back at the history of facts in regards to pastors who are allowed in the church and what they can to the children of our church. As for mixed marriages I know of no historical data which would support either view. It must come from how I was raised and what my intelligence tells me can and might happen to those children before they are old enough to make their own choices. But thats the conundrum which those who say, no harm, wish us to operate under. Sorry the risk with the children are too great. I will not adopt a wait and see stance.Dont know if I am a majority in the community of St Johns but we as a parish did submit what we thought some 5 years or so ago. I would think other congregations did too, not sure if our wishes will be listened to or not but so be it.Sorry to unload on you but just wanted to say this to someone who votes.
 
Thanks for this, Eric. Keem 'em coming.
 
57% that is surprisingly close for the rule change vote. That gives me some pause for concern over the vote on the actual issue...
 
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