Tomorrow afternoon, August 17, 2009, the ELCA opens its biennial church wide assembly in Minneapolis, #CWA09. As always, there will be lots going on, but this year all attention is on the sexuality statement and proposed resolutions that will allow gay clergy and gay marriage.
Will the ELCA join the United Church of Christ (UCC) and Episcopal Churches as the only sizable Christian denominations in the US that allow inclusion of LGBT persons in the fullness of church life? If so, the ELCA will become the largest religious denomination anywhere in the world to do so (The UCC has slightly over 1 million members, and the Episcopal Church has slightly over 2 million members; the ELCA has 4.6 million).
On the eve of the convention, the major newspaper in Minnesota suggests the respectful attitude known hereabouts as “Minnesota Nice” will prevail. According to the story in the Star Tribune on Sunday,
"We’re Lutherans; we’re insistent but polite," said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Goodsoil, a coalition of groups supporting ordination of gay ministers, including the St. Paul-based Lutherans Concerned.
The Rev. Mark Chavez, spokesman for Lutheran CORE, which opposes gay ordination, will be working to defeat the proposal but promised that arguing will not turn into yelling. "Anyone who has seen coverage of any of our earlier assemblies knows that’s not our style," he said.
The question for many is what happens after; what will the losers do?
Bishop Mark Hanson, the Twin Cities native who leads the ELCA, said that no matter how the vote comes out, he’s intent on keeping the losers from rebellion.
"It is my commitment and my conviction that we will not succumb to this polarizing question that often divides communities," he said.
Across the Mississippi River, the St Paul Pioneer Press offers AP articles by reporter Patrick
Condon. His latest article suggests that conservatives are pondering how to respond if the resolutions are passed, noting that there will be discussions about leaving the ELCA but many prefer:
[S]taying in the ELCA and “struggling from within … can we stay and work on our disagreements? That’s a biblical approach as well."
On Saturday evening, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered offered a lengthy feature on the upcoming assembly by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, all but predicting that the resolutions will pass.
First it was the Episcopalians, now it’s the Lutherans. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — one of the largest Christian churches — is on the brink of sanctioning gay clergy members.
And now, the pro-gay lobby is gaining momentum — less through bomb-throwing than just wearing the conservative opposition down …They say Jesus was all about including everyone in his work and mission … even conservatives believe that change is inevitable — if not this year, then at the next assembly in 2011.
I will be in attendance and live blogging from the assembly. Watch this space for regular updates or follow on Twitter by signing up using the “Share Save" button below. Click here for earlier posts about the convention.
Here are a couple of news stories from Monday morning.
An Arizona Republic article wonders about members and congregations that may leave the ELCA and weighs in on the local effect in the Southwest. One Arizona mega church, Community Church of Joy of Glendale, Az, has apparently already chosen to leave the ELCA, even before the historic votes in Minneapolis.
On the other hand, the article also refers to the local option of the resolutions, and quotes synod Bishop Stephen Talmadge,
"It’s possible some people are able to see the ultimate impact on (their) local church" may be minimal, he said.
"Some people have said, ‘We’re tired of continually battling this. Let’s focus on our mission.’"
The article also points out the generational divide on perceptions.
Some young people at Community of Grace Lutheran Church in Peoria say they differ with many of their elders on gay-clergy issues.
"If someone believes enough in their faith to be ordained, who am I to stop them?" asked Laura Wright, 26. "My dad totally disagrees with me.
The Washington Times offers perspective from the Synod bishops in Virginia and Maryland-Delaware.