Not all Lutheran eyes are focused on the Core Convocation in Indiana this weekend.

Stephen MarshFor instance, Pretty Good Lutherans blog reports:

A whole lot of Lutherans will gather today in a Baptist church with ample seating in Detroit. The Rev. Stephen Marsh of the ELCA will walk in a pastor and walk out a bishop. His 2 p.m. installation ceremony is being led by ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. Marsh, 54, was elected in May to a six-year term as bishop of the Southeast Michigan ELCA Synod. He’ll become the first African American bishop of the synod, which maintains an office in Detroit.

Lutherans Concerned North America, an LGBT advocacy group, meets in Chicago, and they issued the following press release:

The leadership of Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) is meeting this weekend at a retreat house in Chicago to celebrate the recent actions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) supporting committed same-gender relationships and allowing for the rostered service of ministers in such relationships and to plan immediate and long term strategies and actions to ensure that the new policies of inclusion are enacted in principle and in practice.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned said, “After 35 years of witness and reconciling outreach LC/NA gives thanks to God and to the voting members of the ELCA for this historic transformation in the life of our church.  It is as if the ELCA has finally come out about its LGBT members and ministers.  As with any coming out, some members of the ELCA family are reacting with celebration, others with fear or anger, and some with silence.  The church has voted for tolerance at the policy level and included congregational autonomy as the failsafe for those members of the family who need distance and time.  As within our families, reconciliation requires intentionality, faithful witness, and relentless love in the face of difficult and painful circumstances. We rely on the witness of Jesus Himself as our guide.  Building relationships across theological, ideological and affinity group lines is needed to sustain the church and the family.  LC/NA is ready and willing to d
o our part.

“The ELCA having spoken in favor of full inclusion, our task for education and outreach is all the more important. We are working to increase the resources and assistance we can offer to congregations who want to expand their understanding of LGBT Lutherans as part of the church.  Working at the intersection of oppressions, our intent is to aid the church’s spread of the Gospel and provision of care and services for those less fortunate than ourselves.  Our prayers are lifted for everyone, celebrating or in distress, in this transforming and challenging time.

“The way forward for a fully inclusive ELCA is clear.  The mission of the church has not changed.  What has changed is that now the work of all faithful Lutherans towards the goals of the church can be recognized and honored.  We may disagree on some points, but Lutherans are one about the message of Christ to be in service to others – it’s our hands doing God’s work.  At last, it can truly be all our hands.”

Lutherans Concerned has advocated for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the Lutheran church since 1974, and was part of the Goodsoil coalition that advocated at the churchwide assembly in August for the changes that were enacted.

The ELCA, in consultation with its Conference of Bishops, is developing the changes that need to be put in place to carry out the decision of the churchwide assembly.  Those changes are expected to go before the ELCA Church Council for consideration and approval when it meets in November 2009.  The Lutherans Concerned Board of Directors and Regional Coordinators will continue their meeting through the weekend.

While those at the Core Convocation debate leaving the ELCA, others are joining or returning.  In San Francisco, the two congregations that were expelled from the ELCA in the ‘90s because they called gay clergy in committed relationships are now considering whether to return.

    Robert W. Byrne, a council member at St. Francis, said he joined that congregation because of its “historic principled stand within the institutional church (against the church’s) discrimination against clergy and seminarians in committed same-sex relationships. I truly believe that being Lutheran calls each of us to be reformers, whenever and wherever we see injustice — as (Martin) Luther himself did.”
     “I have always hoped for and voiced my support for eventual reunion with the ELCA,” Byrne said. “Others in this congregation hold different beliefs at present, and value the traditions and practices we were forced to create for ourselves over the past 20 years,” he said.
     Goldstein said the council at St. Francis planned a series of “cottage meetings” through September to hear from congregation members and build some consensus in advance of an Oct. 4 visit from the Rev. Nancy M. Feniuk Nelson, bishop’s associate, ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, Oakland.

In response to natural disasters in Africa and South America, the ELCA Disaster Response, under the coordination of the ELCA global mission, provided funds in flood ravaged communities.  It is missions such as these that will be harmed by the Core call to withhold funds from the ELCA.

The Lutheran Youth Organization of an ELCA synod recently sent a letter to the ELCA home offices regarding the passage of the sexuality statement and gay ordination and gay marriage proposals at the recent ELCA convention.

“We also have a variety of opinions, and we often disagree,” wrote the synod LYO board.      “However, we stand united as an LYO board behind a slightly different message,” said the youth. “We strive daily to live out a faith of love, tolerance and understanding, even in the most trying of times, and especially when we disagree,” they said.  “We believe most ardently in the gospel message of God’s loving grace and forgiveness, given freely for us all through Christ’s sacrifice. Please join us as we aspire to live love,” said the synod LYO board. “We understand that people have different opinions, and we as a board were very split in our opinions,” said Sarah Embley, synod LYO president, Trinity Lutheran Church, Mount Joy, Pa. “We think it is more important to look past our differences and keep the unity of the church and keep God in main view.”

Sometimes the grownups should listen to the kids.