Churchwide Assembly – Day 5 (Afternoon pt. 2)

[It was a nice evening with my spouse.]

Social Statement on Education was approved as amended 996-17.

Human Sexuality Memorials were taken up. The Assembly was back to E2 Concerning Rostering.

Transcript of the debate from the caption feed follows … lightly edited:

John O’ Malia: Because my wife is a pastor, I look back to 1970 when the ALC narrowly voted 500 to 414 to include women in the ministry. We have since made additional initiatives to become a more inclusive church. It seems to me that each time we have become more inclusive, we have become stronger. But also I look at this issue and believe that there are many congregations who probably would not want to call a gay pastor. The current policy in being so inconsistently applied breeds a sense of secrecy. And, in fact, I think we have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of a policy. I believe that this situation has left call committees basically getting a pig in a poke. If we were open and accepting in our policy, either our call forms could have a little checkmark that said sexual orientation or maybe we could have a whole separate type of call pastors. But this way the call committees can look at the forms and basically just decide “I don’t want to call this person because they’re gay” or “I do” and just make the decision on their own, much the same way that even now, after some 37 years, many congregations will not interview my wife because they simply want a man. My son is also active in our church and is a Deacon. In fact is on the sexuality taskforce.

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Thank you. Microphone 1.

Reverend Chair, Bishop Holloway from the central Ohio Synod. I think basically everything that needed to be said has been said but not everybody has said it and so we’re on lines. But I am concerned in a couple ways we have addressed the matter. My hope is that although this is a very emotional issue for many people in this room on all the sides of the concern, my hope is that as we make statements, that we would try to make sure that we are very careful and use great precision when we make generalizations about what others might do or say if a certain statement is adopted or not adopted. It seems as though we’re using a great deal of anecdotes by which to apply very broad principles. And a group of this size, I don’t see how that can be helped. I appeal to the body to certainly be very careful in making broad statements. I speak in favor of the recommendation of the Memorials Committee to refer this resolution and all matters related to it and to honor the process already established. My reasoning is because many of us in our Synods, including the 21 and the 44, many of us have worked very, very hard to honor the process, which was passed by our previous Assembly, recommended by our Church Council, the Conference of Bishops, as well as the group that has been working as committee, excuse me, the group that has been working on — the groups, the working committee groups here at this Assembly. So I ask that we honor the process. And allow the procedure to help us.

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Thank you. Microphone 6.

Reverend Chair, Miguel Hernandez, Rocky Mountain Synod. I must confess to you, Reverend Chair, that I’ve not always saw diversity in the church. I was born in Mexico, cath like and only — Catholic and only later became Lutheran. With the American Lutheran church I was assured of the Gospel and I thought that my bridge building was over. And I must confess to you, Reverend Chair, that I have often failed the grace which sets us free. I have failed the grace that heals my brokenness and remembers me to the body. And I must confess that I have not fought for justice in total inclusion. Amidst our disagreements, I believe in a sent church, one that where we can be remembered and not left dismembered, one that invites us all to dance with the Lord of the dances, one that allows us to employ all of the gifts that Christ has given us. I believe in a sent church where the Gospel of the cross and Christ crucified is preached and the salvation of all as we are accepted by Christ. Yesterday, I paused to speak with Taylor. He’s one of 35 youth that’s visiting our church convention. I visited with his youth pastor. To them he said, “it’s a no brainer.” I believe in a sent church. I believe that the people of faith that know that Christ is strong and that Christ will keep his church a calm sea in the waves of threat would be ignored. We are the only ones that can fail by failing to —

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Thank you. Microphone 9?

Beth S., Lower Susquehanna Synod. Reverend Chair, there is great pain surrounding these questions, the body of Christ has fractured and the wounds cut into even our closest relationships. We must bear this pain, neither denying it nor trying to assuage it too quickly and bear the cross of Christ. We also must speak clearly. Sexual orientation does not disqualify anyone from full participation or service in this church. We have many gay and lesbian pastors, associates in ministry, rostered leaders of all kinds. And we ought not fear that fact nor condemn it. And we need to help our congregations learn to do that. At the same time, the questions that are before us are matters of behavioral decisions which each and every rostered leader makes on a daily basis as we try to live holy lives in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. And when we turn toward each other and call each other names and draw lines in the sand, we’re not following Christ. It’s a matter not of justice but of discipleship. As we discipline ourselves following our Lord Jesus Christ. And as he calls us to term, Biblical term is repentance, we must all do that as a whole church. When Jesus encountered people, there was always change. The lepers were cleansed, the blind man was healed. And we, too, as a church, need to be changed. Our Lord Jesus repeatedly reminded the disciples that his work was not his own but the father’s in him. And so these questions are not simply ours but God’s. So these issues need to be considered in their broadest context. And I believe referring these matters to the taskforce.

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Thank you. Microphone 12.

Reverend Chair my name is Don King I’m a pastor in the Northeast Ohio Synod. I speak in favor of the substituted resolution. We’ve heard much talk of the 21 memorials and referring them to the taskforce of human sexuality. But I need to suggest that the taskforce in previous portions of the study have not dealt at all with the question of rostering gay or lesbian persons. And there specifically is no intention to do so. May I refer to journey together faithfully part 2 Page 3. In particular, it is important to note that since part 2 devoted extensive attention to questions around same -sex relations in light of scriptural interpretation, tradition and Christian faith, matters specific to homosexuality will not be prominent, a prominent theme in this third study. I urge the Assembly to act now.

BISHOP HANSON: microphone 1.

Esther Johansson, New Jersey Synod. Point of privilege. I have a question.

BISHOP HANSON: If it pertains to the substance of the debate, you have to wait to ask it in line unless it’s procedural.

If we were to adopt the substitution for the recommendation, would that prevent the taskforce from discussing issues regarding same-sex relationships and rostering?

BISHOP HANSON: I’ll allow the question to stand. I’m referring those questions to the taskforce. And as previously, when they’re ready to come up and give an answer, I’ll call upon them. That’s a kind of borderline — clarifying questions are usually clarifying about what’s before the House. Clarifying questions about meaning of the document kind of tip into the questions you could ask when you’re in line but don’t usually become questions that supersede other questions. Microphone 5?

Rosemary Amato from the Oregon Synod. — Mr. Chair, I am not just speaking for myself but also speaking on behalf of my beloved retired pastors and for the rest of Oregon that are not represented here. Many of us are deeply troubled and anxious for our church. Should we change our doctrine and practice on marriage and sexuality? Many of us are facing an imminent church crisis. We do not want to leave the ELCA. We want to stay within this church body. But many of us are questioning, at the very least, the nature and quality of our continuing membership within the ELCA. We need to see the ELCA remain faithful to God’s word. We need to see the ELCA remain faithful to all those who have gone before us. We need to see the ELCA remain faithful to the Lord Jesus our Christ. And we are deeply troubled by this. Please do not force us to raise these questions and face these decisions because we love this church.

BISHOP HANSON: Thank you. Microphone 10?

My name is Mark Betly, upstate New York Synod. Bishop Hanson’s counsel for us to counsel and listen was helpful. I heard my brothers and sisters asking for patience to trust the process, to honor the effort. As I reflect the Bible stories came into my head. I suspect Joseph’s brothers were deeply hurt, their contributions were not valued. David’s anointing as an exception to standard practice dishonored tradition and no one saw the virgin birth coming. So in my righteous smugness I began to craft a speech but the Bible verses and stories didn’t start. Adam and eve’s disput us at cross purposes Jonah a right way to live out a call. Annanias and say fire an were struck dead as a door nail. Out of my consternation came this: I’m a baptized child of God who is both steadfast and fresh, who is unchanging and new. It seems to me that this is my best option today, to support and witness to the God who is both, I don’t get to choose which characteristics of God I like best. This one gives me a chance to faithfully witness to a God who is both steadfast and new. I may steadfastly honor and I may be able to see freshness. This will give us a chance to serve freely. Thanks.

BISHOP HANSON: Microphone 11.

Thank you, Reverend Chair, John Mills, Southeastern Minnesota Synod. I call the orders of the day. According to my understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order, once the orders are called, we move on to the next item on the agenda.

Time and conversation about called orders of the day.

BISHOP HANSON: The parliamentarian has advised me that it is in order to interrupt debate and to say we need to go to the orders of the day. It’s your call. If you agree that we should go to the orders of the day, you would vote yes. If you believe we should continue this discussion, you would vote no. If two-thirds of the people vote no, then we continue with this discussion. … If you wish to move to the orders of the day, which is the discussion of the budget, you would vote yes. If you wish to continue the matter before the Assembly, the discussion of sexuality recommendations, you would vote no. If two-thirds or more vote no, then we remain on this issue. And please vote now. Let’s see the results. 152 yes, 874 no. The request to move to the orders of the day fails. As you move back to the microphone and you continue, let me just say that the rules, both Robert’s rules and our own rules are to serve the discussion. And any time you feel like they’re being abused by those who know them well, I will try to reframe them so you constantly understand what’s before you. So that the rules are serving us and we are not feeling trapped by the rules. That’s my goal here. And I’ll keep working with you at that. [Applause.] Microphone number 7.

Reverend Bishop, Ted Schneider, the swiftly expiring bishop of metropolitan Washington DC. [Laughter]

BISHOP HANSON: Retiring, you said, right?

Well, whatever. [Laughter] I’m feeling lonely standing in a green line. I’ve been asked not to stand here. Our Synod has been a reconciling Christ Synod from the beginning of this church, as for years has been asking the church to study this issue in more recent years asking it to change. So I stand in a strange place. I suspect when I return home, I’ll not be wishp emeritus Schneider but Benedict Arnold Schneider. [Laughter] But when I stand here with a concern. My soul is at peace that this church needs to change and with my Synod I stand. I also think at a time like this there are two questions before us. The first is the question of making a decision. The second is how to make that decision in such a fashion that reception. Decision has the best possibilities of broad success. It’s the reception issue that brings me to this green line, standing in favor of the reference of this issue to the — as the Memorials Committee has said, to the taskforce. Reception has to do with a number of things. We’ve begged our people to walk with us, to talk with us, to journey faithfully with us, to trust us. If we now abort the process to a degree, then this talk about trust is undermined and people will have more difficulty accepting what is perhaps a very good decision. I would certainly speak in favor of letting the taskforce bring us help and support. Thank you.

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Per our rules, per our rules, we will have one minute of silence. Just remain in the line and I will conclude with prayer. almighty eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you and then use us, we pray, as you will. But always to your glory and the Welfare of your people through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, amen. I will indicate my intent that we will go another 20 minutes. I’m going to remove the next item and we’ll look for another time. But after 20 minutes, we do need to move to the orders of the day to allow time for other matters and for recognizing our Secretary. Microphone 8.

Hannah Wallace Southcentral Wisconsin. Reverend Chair, I move the previous question.

BISHOP HANSON: The question has been called. The question before us, second?


BISHOP HANSON: You’re slow. [Laughter] Bishop elect Miller, would you do some work? You are moving to close debate. I just want to clarify with the parliamentarian on — you’re closing debate on the motion to substitute. So if you want to end the debate on the motion to substitute, you would vote yes. If you wish to continue the debate on the motion to substitute, you would vote no. Are you clear? Please vote now. Let’s see the results. 880 yes, 144 no. Before we move to this vote, I would like to call Judith Bunker, member of our prayer team, to lead us in prayer.

The Lord be with you.

BISHOP HANSON: And also with you.

Most compassionate God, your son Jesus has told us not to be afraid. He’s used these words. The advocate. The Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name will teach you and remind you of all that I have sent to you. Open our hearts and minds to your most Holy Spirit that we may listen carefully and seek to do your will in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

BISHOP HANSON: I want to counsel you that if the Assembly adopts the recommendation to substitute this for the Memorials Committee recommendation, it is then before you as the main motion. And you will have to still have chance to debate it and vote on it again. … A yes vote on this motion only says that you want to substitute the motion made by Bishop Stumme-Diers and amended by pastor Moore for the recommendation of the Memorials Committee. A yes vote is to substitute. So this becomes the motion before you. And the motion of the Memorials Committee goes off and is no longer before you. Then if that is adopted and is before you as the main motion, then your question about its meaning would be in order. But it doesn’t seem to be a question that I should answer now because it doesn’t quite go to the vote you already called for. … So if you’re in favor of the substitute motion as amended, you would vote yes. If you’re opposed to it, you would vote no. It takes a majority vote to be adopted. Please vote now. Let’s see the results. 450 yes, 581 no. The motion to substitute is defeated. You have before you now the motion from the Memorials Committee. Microphone 10.

Reverend Chair, Bishop Craig Johnson, Minneapolis area Synod. I move to amend by substitution with the language submitted.

BISHOP HANSON: Go ahead, bishop.

Resolved that the 2007 Churchwide Assembly direct the committee on appeals vocation and education unit nconsultation with the Conference of Bishops and Church Council take the steps necessary to amend visions and expectations’ definitions and guidelines for discipline and the policy on reinstatement to the rosters of this church so that for pastoral reasons and for the sake of mission and ministry, a Synodical bishop, in consultation with the Synod council and the Presiding Bishop, may grant an exception and permit the rostering of otherwise qualified persons in a same-gender committed relationship that is mutual, chaste and faithful, and that once an exception has been granted, that person shall not be subject to discipline based on the same set of facts.

BISHOP HANSON: Is there a second?


BISHOP HANSON: So let me now explain. You have approved by the motion and second another substitute motion for the Memorials Committee recommendation, is that right, bishop Johnson?


BISHOP HANSON: Speaking to your motion to substitute.

I speak in favor of this motion which I believe is a pathway to service. In each of the past three of our Synod assemblies, the Minneapolis area passed resolutions and memorials encouraging change in our church’s policy of precluding the ordination of gay or lesbian persons living in committed relationships. I believe one of the great strengths of our church is the polity of self-determination, which our congregations possess to call pastors approved by the ELCA and signed off upon by Synodical bishops. But not every congregation or bishop is able to do this because there are some wonderful pastors ordained, approved or waiting who are not available because their same-gender committed relationships and our policy. This substitute gives congregations and Synods where the bishops and the council and Presiding Bishop approve, a pathway to call pastors for their mission. This substitute does not force a congregation, Synod or bishop that for a variety of reasons may not be able to grant an exception. We use this kind of path in our difficult journey through Call to Common Mission and the historic episcopate, with success and with peace. In the Gospels, Jesus continually calls to us to reach out and include. This resolution is a pathway to possibility and mission and the path to utilize the gifts of all the baptized for the ministry of Word and Sacrament. I am mindful of the fear in many Synods. Also, of course, I, too, have been fearful. But over 72 months of service in this office, my fear is overcome by the pain of so many excluded.

BISHOP HANSON: Time. Thank you. I just want to clarify to people at mics, because we are still in the same format we had been. The main motion is the Memorials Committee motion. If you’re speaking for that, you would be at a green mic. The substitute motion has been before you. If you are for the substitute motion, you would be at a red mic. So that same pattern continues. Does that cause anyone to want to change mics? Okay. Now technically you were the next speaker, 7. But you got to stay with integrity here. Because I need to call on someone at a green mic next. A procedural question, microphone 7?

Yes, Reverend Chair, I was in line to speak on 2 E, which was still clarifification on the house. I lost my place in line. I thought we were still discussing that.

BISHOP HANSON: Okay, that’s a good question. Because technically we still have 2 E and people are waiting to speak. So if it’s possible for you to return with integrity to where you were, if you still want to speak on 2 E, just have a little conversation now. But we need a green mic next. Who is the next green mic? Microphone 7.

Thank you. Chris Hardy, LaCrosse Synod. Reverend Chair, I move to amend the recommendation from the Memorials Committee, which I believe you have a copy of.

Be it resolved that the 2007 directs the taskforce for the ELCA studies on sexuality to specifically address and make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any church bylaws that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church. .

BISHOP HANSON: Is there a second?


Eric Peterson, south central Wisconsin. Just a clarification, bishop, about this amendment. There are no church bylaws that need to be changed or have recommendations to them in regards to rostering persons. And so I would ask that the chair grant some work with the author here to make sure this amendment is constitutionally correct and so we have good language here.

BISHOP HANSON: I caught that when I heard it. You’re right. I will let you speak to the intent of your amendment, but then we do need to get language that reflects the current practice policies relative to her those policy documents rest. But go ahead and speak to the intent of your amendment.

Thank you. This church has long followed specific policies and procedures for addressing social concerns in witness to God’s just and loving intention for all creation. We do that with the deliberate process of social statements. We analyze, interpret, set forth basic theological and ethical perspectives and offer guidelines. Social statements are the most authoritative form of social policy and are adopted only by the Churchwide Assembly. This matter is already in the hands of a taskforce to address sexuality. Members of that taskforce have said at this Assembly they are hearing the concerns of the Synods and members. We must and should trust that their continued deliberations will be thorough. And yet I have concerns that because of the complexity and divisiveness of this topic, that it might become convenient or easier for this group to not address the concerns regarding same-gender relationships. Many of us in this Assembly hope and pray that the taskforce will complete its work and provide the 2009 Assembly with a thorough recommendation on this issue. My motion is intended to make sure the taskforce addresses this issue head-on with full clarity. We cannot leave room for doubt. There is perhaps no perfect answer to this difficult, agonizing topic. Like all polarizing issues, there is great passion on both sides of this debate, with many of us caught in the middle. I hope this amendment will perhaps move us closer to a compromise. We have all heard the cries of those who feel this is a justice issue which must be resolved now, but sometimes God calls for us to be patient. The children of Israel waited 40 years for the promised land. They waited generations for the promised savior. He came, he saved. And now we wait for his return and are doing our best as children a fallen humanity trying to do God’ work in an imperfect world. Thank you.

BISHOP HANSON: Sir, could you wait at the mic. The suggestion is made — are you willing to change these two words, church bylaws to policy? So it will read “on changes to any policies that preclude.


BISHOP HANSON: We’ll just accept that as your amendment. Now, we are about 1 minute away from where we need to move to the orders of the day, and I am sensing, because you have two matters now before you, that you’re only seeing on screens, one is a substitute motion and one is an amendment to the memorials. It would be good just to bring this discussion to a close because then it would give us a chance to run those off so when we resume this discussion in the morning, you would have the printed text, both of bishop Johnson’s substitute motion and Mr. Hardie’s amendment to the Memorials Committee recommendation. So microphone 4? No, please don’t clap. Microphone 4?

Just point of clarification, I know the point you had indicated for afternoon schedule. What about for tomorrow’s schedule?

BISHOP HANSON: We’re good but we’re not that good. We have to get together and we have to look at all the pieces. I’ll try to have a rough idea for you, by the end of the the afternoon. Now, the problem — don’t leave the cues because it’s a little — now we’ve got three things technically before us. But the first thing will be the amendment, because amendments need to be dealt with first. But don’t lose your place tomorrow if you’re waiting to speak either on Bishop Johnson’s resolution for a substitute or the main motion. You just may choose in the morning when we resume, to step back and let people speaking on Mr. Hardie’s amendment begin. Because that’s the first item that we’ll take up in this item. A procedural question, microphone 8?

Greg Fry, northeast Pennsylvania Synod. I call to suspend the rules to continue debate.

BISHOP HANSON: Is there a second?


BISHOP HANSON: The motion is to suspend the rules and continue the debate. It takes two-thirds to affirm his motion to suspend the rules and continue the debate. So if you wish to suspend the rules, continue the debate, you’d vote yes. If you wish to bring the debate to a close, you would vote no. I’m just pausing because several are running to their chairs. Okay. Are you clear? If you want to suspend the rules, continue the debate, vote yes. If you want to close debate, you vote no. Vote now. It takes two-thirds to be adopted. Let’s see the results. 555 yes, 425 no. The motion to suspend the rules is defeated. So we will move now to the next order of the day. I think it’s — let’s stand and sing a hymn.


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