At the conclusion of the ELCA 2009 churchwide assembly, after the votes were in, voting member and former Minnesota governor Al Quie chided those who he believed were overreacting negatively. “I’m opposed to this change, too,” he said, “but that’s my problem,” and he urged a cautious response. It appears his heart has hardened, and he has gone over to the dark side of demagoguery.
According to Websters, a demagogue is “a person, esp an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.” It seems Quie has assumed this mantle by allowing a letter to the editor to circulate in the newspapers of Minnesota citing his name and that of a Bill Lee. The letter contains a populist appeal that a former Congressman and Governor should understand to be a mischaracterization of the way decisions are made by democratic institutions, whether the Congress of the United States, the State of Minnesota, or the ELCA. Whether by deliberate misstatements or innuendo, their letter of January 7th contains several blatant falsehoods.
“The leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) turned its back on members of its churches.” This perpetuates an urban myth that the pro-LGBT assembly decisions were mandated by a powerful church hierarchy, imposed in a top down fashion. The truth, and Quie knows this, is that the actions of the ELCA assembly were the results of balloting by over a thousand voting members chosen from around the entire ELCA, elected to serve as voting members by ballot at 65 regional synods, comprised of representatives from each and every congregation of the ELCA.
“Most members were caught off-guard”. LGBT ministry policies have been the subject of resolutions at synod and church wide assemblies for more than a decade. At the 2001 church wide assembly, a full eight years prior to the most recent assembly, a resolution passed to commence the process of study that would produce a social statement on human sexuality, and that process chugged along slowly with ample opportunity for input, discussion, dialogue, and debate. Along the way, preliminary materials were offered for congregational study. For anyone to suggest after the fact, as does Quie the demagogue, that ELCA members didn’t know that LGBT issues were the hot button topic in ELCA politics that would be front and center at the 2009 assembly is either a lie or an acknowledgment that they simply weren’t paying attention.
“[M]embers did not have a voice in this decision.” Come now, Mr. Governor and Mr. Congressman. Surely you understand how a representative democracy works. Voters elected you to Congress. You served as their representative. You, and not your constituents, voted on the hundreds of measures that came before the Congress during your term. Voters elected you to the Governorship. You signed or vetoed hundreds of bills that came across your desk that had been passed by the bicameral legislature of Minnesota. You did not sign a single bill that had been enacted directly by the voters of Minnesota. Please. Exhibit some integrity and honesty about how the process works in Congress, in the state of Minnesota, and in the representative, democratic polity of the ELCA. Please don’t offend common sense by suggesting that the 4.5 million member ELCA (which is similar to the population of Minnesota when you served as a Congressman and Governor) functions or ought to function as a direct and not a representative democracy.
You know very well that individual members voted in their local congregations for those who became their congregational representatives as voting members at the synod assemblies; in turn, those voting members at the synod assemblies then elected, through the process of nomination and ballot, those who served as the synodical voting members at the churchwide assembly. That was how you were elected to serve as a voting member at the 2009 church wide assembly. How quickly you forget.
“No one represents all the laity.” What about the mandate of the ELCA constitution that at least 60% of the voting members at both the synod assemblies and the national, church wide assemblies must be lay members and not clergy?
Mr. Governor, you have besmirched your good name and reputation by allowing this rabble rousing letter to go out over your signature.