I received a copy of “Concord”, the publication of Lutherans Concerned/North America. They specifically outlined plans for the Churchwide Assembly based on activity they encouraged within Synod Assemblies. It was “a stair-step approach to the rostering of LGBT persons in a committed, same-gender relationship, and similar seminarians as candidates for the roster.”
Three memorials are proposed.
- “Memorial 1 would direct the appropriate ELCA bodies to remove the language from the two documents that prevent the rostered service of LGBT persons in a committed, same-gender relationship. Those two documents are Vision and Expectations and Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline. If passed by the Churchwide Assembly, there would be but a single set of requirements, a single set of rules, a single vision for the exemplary life required of those in rostered service — not two, as there are now.
- “Memorial 2 is the second in the stair-step approach to the Churchwide Assembly. If Memorial 1 does not pass at the 2007 Assembly, the plan is then to present this memorial. Since the Churchwide Assembly would not have removed the discriminatory language, the memorial encourages bishops to refrain from disciplining those who in good conscience call, ordain, commission, or consecrate LGBT persons in a same-gender relationship, where such relationship is the only barrier to being rostered.
- “Memorial 3 is the third stair in the approach to the Churchwide Assembly. If neither Memorial 1 nor 2 passes at the Assembly, this memorial would come to the floor. It asks the Churchwide Assembly, since it would have neither removed the discriminatory language nor encouraged bishops to refrain from discipline, to at least encourage restraint in the application of the policy against the rostered service of LGBT persons in a committed, same-gender relationship.
Lutherans Concerned reports that 21 Synods (of 65) have memorialized the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to approve #1, 14 Synods have memorialized the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to approve #2, and 7 Synods have memorialized the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to approve #3. They also report that 3 Synods have “memorialized 2007 Churchwide asking it to explicitly prohibit the blessing of same-gender relationships, which would negatively revise the decisions at the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.
Reviewing the Report of the Memorials Committee, we find that indeed 21 Synod Assemblies have approved some version of #1, and 13 Synods called for no change in the present practice and recommended referral to the Task Force on ELCA Studies of Sexuality. The Memorials Committee also recommended Memorial #1 be referred to the Task Force. In reference to #2, indeed 14 Synods adopted the model language, and 7 adopted essentially the same resolution, for a total of 21. The Memorials Committee recommended referral to the Conference of Bishops, saying that discipline was a function of the office of Bishop. Memorial #3 is more challenging to flesh out. Not all of the memorials from the Synods are printed, but rather referred to in a parenthetical reference.
There are 13 Synods which have memorialized the Churchwide Assembly to enact no changes in current policy and many recommend referral to the Task Force on ELCA Studies of Sexuality.
Given this, and the fact that Concord is reporting that memorial #1 was passed by Assemblies representing more than 40% of the baptized membership of the ELCA, and the prominence of Bradley Schmeling’s recent removal from the clergy roster, I expect that once again, these issues will dominate the Assembly. Watch for motions to remove these from en bloc status, and then amended to remove the recommendation of the Memorials Committee. We will have to watch to see what happens.