Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Synod Assembly

A moment ago I emailed Tammy Sather at the SW MN Synod to check on when a report or summary of what happened at the Synod Assembly might be available. As soon as I get that official "word" I'll post or link to it.

Besides just getting together for Bible study, worship and prayer with other members of ELCA from our area we heard reports from leaders, testimonies of how people see God at work in their lives, voted on candidates and made decisions on some "resolutions."*

There was quite a bit of debate on some issues that will come before the ELCA "churchwide assembly" (CWA) this summer:
  • Resolution 09.02 encouraged the CWA to reject the ELCA's proposed "social statement" on sexuality. That resolution failed 275-338.
  • Resolution 09.03 asked the CWA to reject changes that would allow men or women who are in "committed same sex unions" to be official leaders & pastors in some local ELCA churches. That resolution passed 303-279.
  • Resolution 09.04 was an attempt to require 2/3 vote (instead of a simple majority) at the CWA on the "Report and Recommendations on Ministry Policies." It failed 262-275.
I was personally surprised and dismayed that 09.04 failed.** The SW MN Synod is one of the more conservative in the ELCA. If it could not push to require a supermajority on such a contentious issue, it seems to me that the CWA will probably pass the changes. Of course, we won't know until the CWA meets in Minneapolis August 17-23.

There is much more to be said and prayed about, but for now I just ask your prayers and your wise counsel. Please pray that the Lord would direct me as to how much time or energy I should spend on this. There are a lot of other things to do. But please do let me know your thoughts.


*A "resolution" is a formal statement agreed to by a group.
**As a pastor, I am committed to the understanding, codified in our church constitution, that the Bible is "the authoritative source and norm of [our] proclamation, faith, and life" including our view of sexuality. Those of us with this traditional view look at to scriptures (such as Matthew19:4-6) and, secondarily, to what we see as the male-female design in nature and say it's obvious that male-female marriage is the God-blessed form for full sexual expression. On the other hand, those with a "revisionist" viewpoint believe that those who wrote the scriptures were unaware of homosexual orientation and, therefore, the Bible cannot be the final word in this discussion. In my opinion, this critique has been successfully refuted, for example, by Joel Berthelsen in his book length paper A Welcoming Community of Grace: A Law and Gospel Approach to the Sexuality Debate--see the section on The Big Tent - “the majority and minority experience.”


  1. Is this a devisive issue? By that I mean is this going to cause a split in the ELCA? I can see the "loosing" side, whichever one that may be, deciding they can no longer stay in the group.

    For myself I'm fairly well grounded in the belief that a MARRIAGE is a union between a man, a woman, and God. If you take one of those elements out it may be a loving relationship, but it no longer qualifies for marriage.

    That being said, if ELCA OK's leadership from from a person engaged in same sex union, do I then wthdraw and form another group with a bunch of like minded indiviuals? I hope not. Much the same as we connot split up the United States every time we diagree on an issue, neither can we break up the church everytime we disagree. We seek to understand the other position, and articulate the beliefs we hold. I hope.
    Tim Robbins

  2. Thanks for your note, Tim. The DC area ELCA pastors have met together a couple of times in connection with this. There are some "renewal" movements within the ELCA... I've been a part of WordAlone for many years. Lutheran CORE and LC3 are also organizations we're learning more about. As you say, it is always important to try to put the "best construction" on our neighbor's motivations and actions, especially when we disagree. For me, the key is where the scriptures are in our conversation. Is God's revelation to us at the periphery or in the center? Of course we always need to temper certainty with humility, for though there is absolute truth in God, none of us can know that truth absolutely.