Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Note from Minneapolis

I've been in Minneapolis since yesterday afternoon for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA). You can follow the action at this link.

An official ELCA news release having to do with the sexuality business that I've been writing about in this blog says that the CWA:
"...turned back a motion that would have required a two-thirds majority for changes in policies relating to the rostering of clergy, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses. The vote, with 57 percent in opposition, came late in the evening of the first day of the gathering.

"A vote to allow people living in committed same-gender relationships to be on the professional rosters of the ELCA is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21.

"The action leaves in place a recommendation that a simple majority vote be sufficient for the proposed policy changes."
After last night's session ended, I went to a meeting of Lutheran CORE, one of the unofficial groups that is getting together during the CWA. Lutheran Core believes church decisions should be based on scripture.

I am a supporter of Lutheran Core. I am concerned that the ELCA makes some decisions in a way that dishonors what God has revealed in the Bible. No church has perfect knowledge of God's will, but in some matters, including sexuality, I believe that the ELCA has drifted away from its scriptural basis.

I encourage you to look at the news releases produced by Lutheran Core. This morning's Lutheran Core news release said this:
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted 584-436 Monday night to reject a proposal that would have required a two-thirds majority to change ELCA teaching and policy to allow pastors to be in same-sex relationships.

The assembly rejected appeals from voting members including five synod bishops that a two-thirds majority would serve the unity of the ELCA.

“A two-thirds vote would indicate how seriously and carefully we have addressed this topic,” the Rev. Larry Wohlrabe, bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, told the assembly.

“Right now this church requires of us a higher standard,” said the Rev. Callon Holloway, bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod.

Leaders of Lutheran CORE expressed disappointment in Monday’s decision. “I am very disappointed that the voting members seem willing to let basic Christian teaching be overthrown by a simple majority vote of a tiny percentage of ELCA members,” said the Rev. Steve Shipman of Lock Haven, Pa. “Such a decision would lack any legitimacy both ecumenically and among our members.”

“The assembly seemed intent on achieving a particular legislative objective rather than considering the wider implications of the action on the ELCA and on the global Christian community,” said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C.

“It is a shame that the assembly intends to make such a serious decision by a majority margin. It shows utter disregard for most of the rest of the Christian Church,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.

“Consideration of these proposals threatens the ELCA’s relationship with our partner churches in the Lutheran World Federation. Church leaders from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe have already written letters stating that approval of the sexuality proposals would greatly damage the ELCA’s relationship with their churches,” said the Rev. Mark C. Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE. “These proposals will also severely damage the ELCA’s relationship with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestant Christians.”

“The ELCA has already been damaged significantly just by presenting the sexuality proposals to the Churchwide Assembly. And the damage will be compounded no matter what the assembly decides,” Chavez said. “A Christian church has no business voting on whether the Bible is relevant to the faith and life of its members.”

Respected theologians and church leaders say the proposed social statement would overturn Biblical teaching as it has been understood by Christians for nearly 2,000 years.

“No church has the authority to overturn the Word of God that protects sexual relations by placing them properly in the structure of marriage, and establishes marriage as being between male and female,” said the Rev. Erma Wolf of Brandon, S.D., vice chair of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. “When any church finds itself accommodating its teachings to the ways of the culture, that church is in trouble.”
A group representing another view is Goodsoil.
"Goodsoil is a collaboration of organizations working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families in the full ministerial and sacramental life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). [Goodsoil works] to reconcile our church’s policies and practices regarding same-gender marriage, blessings of covenanted unions, and the rostering of partnered LGBT ministers, harmonizing these with our shared values of faith, trust, commitment, monogamy, mutuality, and dignity."
I think Goodsoil, and many within the ELCA, would strongly disagree with the thesis I posted on Saturday. I am putting it up on this blog again today in the hopes that people from our church or others would comment below.
Because God has chosen to create, protect and nurture human life through the sexual act and committed love of one man and one woman, therefore we honor committed heterosexual monogamous marriage above all other forms of sexual intimacy.
Please continue to share your opinions on that thesis and any of the other issues that will impact our church's future.



  1. Steve --

    I'm a gay Christian man in Minneapolis who is closely following the news coming out of the ELCA. The decision Friday will determine whether I feel new hope or old condemnation upon walking into an ELCA church. No matter the systematic theology of a vote against gay pastors and same-sex relationships, it would feel like a vote that I'm not wanted there.


  2. Yeah, I get it. That's why this is hard.

  3. Thanks for getting it... that's more than I'm used to. I'm praying for you all.


  4. Pastor Steve. The Word of God is CLEAR. Trust his word and stay true to faith. No one ever said it would be easy..Love and Prayers

  5. There is no question, Wayne, where I stand personally. The ELCA pastors in the Dassel-Cokato area are in agreement too, which makes things easier locally. The question has to do with how we, with you and all those who are affiliated with our churches, will respond to ELCA actions with which we believe are unfaithful to God's creative order and His revealed truth.

  6. Pastor Steve:
    This is hard. No matter which side of this issue one comes down on, the other side can point and say, "Hypocrite!"
    This issue touches me personally because my brother is gay. So I'm not coming from a totally bigoted, homophobic angle. I love my brother. He's the only one I have. I don't understand why he has the feelings he has. Did God make him like this? If so, is this his cross to bear? (Steve, I'd like to speak more with you about this at a later time.)
    But I believe the Bible clearly lays out that sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sin. Given that, I don't know how the ELCA as a whole can pass any kind of resolution which would, in effect, condone same-sex marriage.
    Are we to operate as if sin doesn't matter? Our sins are forgiven so we don't need to repent, just do what feels good? That's how the world operates. But with the Spirit living in us we are not of the world.
    Tim R

  7. Thanks, Tim, for being so open in sharing our common struggle with all of this. Take time to read some of the back and forth in comments that have been submitted this month. Those who can't can't be at the assembly can hear the back and forth debates on the assembly floor, but only in real time as far as I know at www.elca.org -- I would hope there would be a way of listening later or reading transcripts. There are many heartfelt comments on both sides. The question for me is whether we are going to let our emotions guide us or whether there is something and someone higher than our feelings (God in creation and scripture) that we need to hear. God is greater than our hearts. He does not condemn us, but only because Jesus was sacrificed in our place.

  8. Good morning Pastor Steve. I looked back at your August 17 post and in that you wrote "One thing I wish for is comments from you!". It looks like your wish came true! Have a great day down there. We prayed for you last night at Bible study for guidance and clarity. You have our support brother..

    Mike L

  9. Thank you, Mike. Please be in prayer specifically for Steve Olson, Mike Nelson and Mark Little too, as they are pastors of ELCA churches in the DC area.

  10. Thanks for our frank and mutually-enlightening dialogue you and I had in Room 204AB at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Pastor Steve.
    I believe that the LORD Jesus Christ has a leadership destiny for you not merely in strongly influencing the present ELCA leadership and voting members with respect to what the totality of our Sacred-66-books Scripture has to say against both homosexuals and homosexuality.

  11. DR - I have never felt a call to speak against homosexuals.

  12. DR - could you please identify yourself more fully so we can dialog more?

  13. DR - please look at my post from Thursday, August 28, 2008 - here's the link, but I don't know if links work in comments... http://equalsharing.blogspot.com/2008/08/log-in-my-eye.html