Monday, June 21, 2010

Is It Possible?

Scripture says "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).  Even a rich man like me can be saved for the Kingdom of God.  Amazing Grace!

What about the possibility of keeping our local church together after Wednesday's congregation meeting?  This Wednesday evening there will be a meeting with a vote called for to disaffiliate from the ELCA.  Can we stay together and continue to work side by side?  Can God not do this?  What can stand in God's way?

Aside from the issue of hurt feelings and personal offense, which must be taken care of through talking with one another, confessing and repenting and forgiving... aside from that what is it that stands in the way?  And can some kind of agreement be reached?  Only with God--only according to the Word of God and by the loving spirit of Jesus Christ.

Tonight I attended a meeting of "Friends of the ELCA."  As I said to Pastor Eric Lemonholm, with whom I'm having a fascinating dialog, "I attended because I hope I am a friend, though not a happy friend at present."  I'm not happy with some deep issues* within the ELCA, but as I listened to what the "Friends of the ELCA" are saying, I find I appreciate some of the things they brought up: (1) The ELCA's support of those in need through organizations such as Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Social Service and (2) a general non-judgmental attitude of that allows people to continue to talk with each other and work together in spite of significant disagreements.

I came out of the meeting wondering what might be possible.  I know that some people from one side or the other have been reaching out to talk with others to listen and learn from each other.  I think that's helpful.  I don't think any accommodation that trivializes or demeans either "sides" concerns will work--the difficulty with "staying" in the ELCA is that the ELCA has decided to lift up personal conscience over what seems to me and others to be so clear--that the one blessing God places on sexual relationships is heterosexual in its essence. The difficulty with "leaving" is that we're not sure what that means, what kind of future affiliation(s) would work for us... though, because there are two votes that need to be taken to leave, we would have time to figure that out.  I know of some churches that took their two votes years apart!

What might be possible?  Perhaps some kind of "staying but protesting" can be arranged... or perhaps "leaving with support" -- that if we leave we could agree to to continue to fund ELCA programs that are most important to our "Friends of the ELCA."  Last week at church council I suggested that perhaps God might intervene and bring strong voices on both sides together for the good of our local church, to sketch out a possible future, or to postpone the vote for another time while such a future is imagined...

I can't control this and I haven't.  I will continue to pray and I hope you will too.  A 25 hour prayer vigil begins tomorrow at 5 p.m.  If you'd like to participate, please contact me or call the church office (320-286-5964).  It's only with God that any good comes--and that means prayer.

* I've outlined some of the deep issues in the ELCA previously on this blog and now again in my dialog with Pastor Lemonholm--if you're interested let me know and I'll see if we can share our conversation with you.

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