I’m a voting member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Amercia’s (ELCA) 11th Biannual Churchwide Assembly. Two years ago here, I blogged while watching the streaming webcast. This year, I’m providing some observations from the assembly floor as a voting member.
Monday evening’s rule vote was considered by many to be the initial reflection of how the Assembly will vote on the matters of human sexuality that are to come before the body, particularly whether or not this church will ordain persons in same-gender unions. While that may be true to an extent, I think something more significant is at work.
The new rule moved by Bishop Gregory Pile of the Allegheny Synod (a former Bishop of mine) was so all-inclusive that it left no room in the middle. It would have required a 2/3 vote for ANY motions, amendments, substitute motions, etc related to the ELCA Human Sexuality Task Force Recommendations on Ministry Policies. That was curious to me, in part, because a substitute motion can be completely opposite of the main motion. Was the attempt to kill any decision about these matters at this Assembly? The result was that the proposed rule didn’t leave any room for those in the middle.
There is the assumption that everyone in this church is polarized about gay or lesbian partnered (in same gender relationships) pastors. I believe that there are many who are quite conflicted about this, and will be influenced by the debate and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit at work here. If either “side” raises the bar too high, there will not be sufficient agreement. Those advocating the 2/3 rule know this, and at the heart of the proposed rule is the recognition that if this Assembly advocates change, then we should at least do it so overwhelmingly that there is no doubt left.
There has to be room for the middle, for people to be able to say, “This makes me uncomfortable, but I can do this. I can go this far.” Whatever rules, motions, amendments, etc. in either direction that gives room to the middle will ultimately be that which is approved. I encourage all at the assembly to find ways to make room for one another.
Unfortunately, the proposed rule change didn’t do that.
Current odds of seeing me at a microphone this week: 40%