ELCA Churchwide Assembly – Day 3 (Afternoon)

The afternoon session today began with Bible Study, led by Dr. David Tiede, a member of the Task Force on ELCA Studies of Human Sexuality. I can already hear my colleagues in other forums crying “foul!”. While Dr. Tiede seemed to be balanced in his approach, much of what he said will be heard as advocating change in how this church understands human sexuality, especially as it applies to the rostering of GLBT persons. A key section of this presentation is here:

But God gave us Jesus to set us free and to save us from an evil age and from ourselves. Hard as we try, we are stuck.
Righteously, religiously keeping the rules, we are always trying to make it on our own; and then we want everyone else to be like us. Our show tune can probably be “there’s no righteousness like self-righteousness.” And that certainly includes our sexual righteousness, by the way. Why can’t a woman be more like a man? Asks Henry Higgins? Or why can’t you get the sexual gender thing straight, like I have it figured out? Oh, who will save us from this body of death, says Paul in other contexts. Look, there’s no one here except forgiven sinners, mere mortals. As you hear the apostle rip into the people who thought they were righteous, don’t be so defensive, relax. So what if your politics are conservative or if they are liberal?
Maybe you are an adamant advocate for the justice of sexual inclusivety. Or maybe you are a fierce defender of moral moral purity. You may be right. Maybe you will learn from each other and from the council of the spirit. But most importantly, your righteousness before God didn’t come from you. Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia is a risky, powerful testimony. You could hear the force of it yesterday. Martin Luther’s dynamic commentaries on Galatians were denounced by the official teachers in Rome as “anti-nomian” or denying God’s law. One of the reasons that you need to hear or read the whole letter is that Paul first attacks those who turn Christian freedom into a new law and then he concludes: “for you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” So hang in for chapters 5 and 6. Christian freedom, unlike the popular definitions of freedom, is not simply from. But freedom for. It is freedom to be a blessing to the neighbor and to the world. Even our sexuality is an opportunity to make the world a more trustworthy place. We begin today in Chapter 1 where the apostle is taking on those who insist on their program, those who are requiring obedience to the rules instead of trusting the freedom of God’s Gospel.
And we are asking you and people throughout our church and Assemblies everywhere first not to examine printed texts or to argue about translations but to listen with the hearing of the heart. This is discipline of letting go, of letting God, of seeking to discern what is, in fact, the will of God for us.

The Assembly was invited into 10 minutes of discussion following a reading from Galatians.

Dr. Mary Stufert, the director for justice for women presented the
Churchwide report on justice for women. This report was delayed from the morning session.

Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers made a motion to refer to ELCA Church Council the request to fund the HIV-AIDS Strategy(passed this morning) up to $1 Million. The rules of the Assembly mean this is referred automatically to Reference and Council.

Bishop Hanson described the duties of the Secretary of the ELCA prior to the first ballot for that position. (1066 Voting Members registered just prior to this vote.) This position may be either clergy or lay. This election should prove to be very interesting … I wouldn’t know who to nominate!

ELCA Treasurer presented her report.

  • “The Churchwide organization completed fiscal years 2005 and 2006 with revenue exceeding expense in its current budgeted operations.” “Mission Support income for 2006 represented the first increase in annual mission support income since 2001.”
  • “The past two years has seen record income levels for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal. In 2005, contributions to the ELCA general World Hunger Appeal reached 17 million, an increase of .8 million over the 2004 level. In 2006, ELCA members again gave very generously to support this appeal, exceeding the prior year by 2.1 million to reach 19.1 million in income for world hunger. This is the largest single-year increase in world hunger receipt since 1999.”

—-This is when my power failed—

—-What is posted below is a reconstruction from other sources.—-

  • There were also stats about contributions to Disaster Response that I was working on writing when the power went down.

Mission Investment Fund Report was given.

  • $383 million in loans. This compares to $81 million when MIF began with the establishment of the ELCA.
  • The number of investors in the last two years has increased about 10%.
  • All synods and one in three congregations have investments with MIF;
  • but only ½ of one percent of individual ELCA members have such investments—an area of growth for the future.

The Assembly then began to tackle the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Mission Funding. That process was in full swing, with some debate and amendments being made, when the process was suspended with orders of the day.

Bishop Ray Schultz, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada brought greetings.

The quasi committee of the whole was convened with about 25-27 persons speaking. The time was begun with prayer.

  • Speaker: Process is in its sixth year now, needs to be continued until it’s finished. To change things now would rush the process.
  • Speaker: In favor of full inclusion; God calls and we now preclude gifted people from service.
  • Speaker: Respect the bishops’ recommendation for the process and the memorials committee’s decision to refer.
  • Speaker: In favor of memorials originally passed by a number of synods. Wants to open a window and create a little space to see where the Spirit is leading. Too many are dead certain of their position.
  • Speaker: Education task force proves how well the process can work; we ought to trust the process.
  • Speaker: In favor of rostering GLBT; we are not expected to agree all the time. When ALC adopted women clergy it was by only 86 votes.
  • Speaker: Proposals should be referred because of 2005 decision to be considered in 2009. We should not change course; it will tear the church apart, creating deep divisions, surprising some people.
  • Speaker: 21 synods passed E2 — more than any other memorial in the history of the ELCA. How can the ELCA survive? After 2000 years, Christianity has survived by bringing in new members every year. Will keeping policy of discrimination help us attract thousands of new members? Will young people want to participate in a church that discriminates? Will people of color trust a church that discriminates against GLBT the same way people of color experienced?
  • Speaker: A hard issue; as a parish pastor I have parishioners and family members who are gay and want to be included in the ministry of the church. I think we need more time to study and listen to the voices. I commend the voice of Merton Strommen. Every congregation received his book and DVD.
  • Speaker: A lay person in one of the 21 synods. We owe it to our gay and lesbian members to make a decision.
  • Speaker: Continue the process until it is finished in 2009. We prayed and received the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Orlando; to change would be to say we did not discern the intent of the Spirit in Orlando.
  • Speaker: A youth member of the Memorials Committee who voted against referral on the committee and now. Has a passion for the ELCA and knows that being a Lutheran does not mean being comfortable. It’s about taking a stand for what is right and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated. We need to lead the way in advocating for the marginalized.
  • Speaker: I assure you that we are listening, but we need to let the sexuality task force hear the stories, too. They need to continue the job that we as a church have given them to do.
  • Speaker: I love the church – this body of believers. My church made it clear to me how it felt about someone who is attracted to a person of the same gender, so for 38 years I lived in hiding. When I admitted what was true, I didn’t come to church for a while, then I was invited to an ELCA congregation, and I could be a lot of things, but limited.
  • Speaker: A voting member in 2005. A lot of time and emotions were expended, and we thought the decision had been made. IF we open up the discussion again, all that time and energy is wasted.
  • Speaker: In 1982 LSM assembly, recommended that church bodies to ordain. Now it’s been 25 years and we are expected to continue to wait. There will always be a reason to wait. Meanwhile the mission of the church is being hindered by refusal to ordain all who are called by God to mission and ministry.
  • Speaker: First-timer, the time invested here is very important. It’s not about me, but about God and the church. If the work we do this week is ignored or discarded, how shall I feel about the sweat equity invested in our work? We owe validation to those who were here in 2005.
  • Speaker: Continuation for someone who was shorted on time. Denied membership in a Christian Mom’s Group because the ELCA not biblical enough.
  • Speaker: Pastor Schmeling baptized my nephew. He was an agent of God’s grace as it washed through the congregation. The very next week, he had to face a legal proceeding. I pray we will vote to include people with gifts so that my nephew will grow up in a church that welcomes all people into their vocations.
  • Speaker: One of the blessings I have as a parish pastor is to teach young people the history of our church – the correct teaching of Scripture — Luther’s Small Catechism — Any change in church policy regarding human sexuality will pull us away from these teachings. We would be inviting chaos to rule our hearts and minds.
  • Speaker: I believe that this week we should change our policy so that GLBT can serve on the clergy roster of this church; current policy harms our church because it keeps qualified people out of service. A lesbian couple in my congregation – strong Lutherans; one of them a social worker who should be a pastor – she has not pursued her dream for which she is qualified because of the policy, so she won’t embarrass her family.
  • Speaker: Refer to the task force; we need to consider the impact of our decisions on the future of the ELCA. As we seek to thrive and grow we need to keep in mind what’s happened to our ecumenical partners, particularly the Episcopal Church and the UCC. We need to hold to current policies.

(Summaries Provided by Mim Woolbert)

Following the quasi committee of the whole, the afternoon session concluded with College Corporation Meetings. Some ELCA Colleges require votes from Churchwide Assembly.

Tonight there is a reception to recognize the 100th Anniversary of Lutheran Campus Ministry.

Pondering Pastor

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