Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thurs AM – “Quasi Committee of the Whole”

The assembly met this morning as "Quasi Committee of the Whole" which is a way to allow more discussion of an issue in a less formal matter. The discussion was on Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies

From the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality. You can find these recommendations here

This was a very calm, graceful and even reasonable discussion. I'm going to outline what I thought were the more reasonable arguments against the recommendations. I didn't agree with the arguments but I thought they were well reasoned.

Also I want to recognize that there are people who desperately want to support the idea of ordaining gay and lesbian pastors, but their way of looking at the bible just will not allow them to do that. I don't think there are many people like that, but they are here and I'm sure this is very difficult for them.

First something unreasonable - we began the discussion not with one but TWO people who had to point out how hurtful and disrespectful it was to the "bound conscience" of those who opposed passage of the sexuality statement to hear applause after it passed. I just wasn't feeling the sympathy for these folks because a) those folks ridicule the whole notion of "bound conscience" and yet want to use it to play the "this was so hurtful" victim card and b) not okay to applaud and express joy at the passage but it is okay for not one but TWO people to express at the mike in front of the whole assembly, their "pain" that they didn't get their way. Okaaay....

Bishop expresses sorrow for their "pain" and we move on.

One of the arguments that I think is important to address is the ecumenical question. There are many of our own partner Lutheran bodies in Asia and Africa that are just appalled at the idea of ordaining gays. As a letter from a bishop in Hong Kong put it - "This is embarrassing for us" But what occurred to me was - what must it be like to be a gay or lesbian person in such a culture? It was very helpful to have Barbara Rossing, a member of the Lutheran World Federation to point out that the organization is in fact in the middle of a five year study on "Marriage, Family and Human Sexuality" to help us figure out how we live and work together with differing view on these things. The LWF is made up of churches who deny ordination to women, divorced persons as well as German and Swedish churches which do ordain gay and lesbians in committed relationships. So I think the dire predictions about the end of ecumenism, while important to consider, are overstated.

Someone asked "If moving in this direction is the work of the Holy Spirit, then why haven't all the other churches been moved to go this way by the Spirit?" You have to admit, that is a good question.

Someone else made a very good point that those who opposed ordination of non-celibate gays are not saying that gay people are going to hell. But the church does have a right and an obligation to criticize people who are behaving in dangerous, destructive sexual behavior. I agree with that. I just don't see life-long monogamous relationships among gay people as dangerous or destructive.

Someone else thought all this focus on sexuality was keeping us from doing mission. And yet I think of all the mission we ARE doing.

I'm just going to share two of my favorite arguments for the recommendations - to the worry that this is going to be church dividing, someone pointed out that for 500 years Lutherans have insisted that the basis for our unity is Word and Sacrament. Nothing else.

And I just liked the guy who talked about Lillo and Stitch and how you don't leave family behind just because they are not what you wanted or expected.

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