Friday, August 05, 2005

Pep Talk!

Shrimp here: Now listen here troops. Ya got a big game, but you can do it. We got a tough opponent, seasoned, dedicated and deperate. But you can win. You gotta be tough.

Who we going up against? Here's some game footage from last June:

"Thoughts on the ELCA Southeastern Synod Assembly

We knew this would be a difficult weekend as the southern _expression of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gathered in Athens, GA. The forces of reaction in organized Christendom are strong, and that’s as true in the ELCA as it is almost everywhere else. Still, those of us who are LGBT Lutherans or heterosexual supporters felt a need to do something to address the issues raised by the church’s incessant studying of issues related to sexuality. (Decisions are to be made at the national church conference later this summer.)

We formed a group to advocate for justice and called ourselves “Full Welcome” ( We printed brochures and hosted a hospitality suite. We conducted a prayer vigil and proposed progressive resolutions. We spoke out loudly and handed out rainbow ribbons, a couple of hundred of ‘em, to our supporters. Mostly, though, we wanted to speak truth to power in a way that is consistent with what we value: compassion, kindness, love, recognition that even those who oppose us remain brothers and sisters in the faith.

The prayer vigil Friday evening was moving and powerful; as delegates and others left the opening worship, they saw across the street a group of 50 or 60 men, women and children holding a banner and candles and singing. Several delegates and others joined us.

There were many difficult times during the Assembly. The keynote speaker gave a rambling tirade that said Lutherans were unwilling to speak out against social ills like the threats to traditional marriage because we are too politically correct and we "hide behind grace." The bishop told the Assembly that people outside the hall (members of three Lutheran churches) would be trying to hand out flyers and that these people had no connection with the Synod (!) and it would be fine for delegates to just smile and say "God bless you" and not take them.

We succeeded in speaking our truth and strengthening the resolve of wavering "moderates." We defeated or modified the worst of the resolutions, and we succeeded in getting one of our resolutions passed, albeit focused on "pastoral care" rather than "blessing of relationships." This was no small thing. I'm still trying to get some of the images projected onto the Assembly hall screen -- pastors standing at microphones holding bibles over their heads as if ready to hurl them at us -- out of my head. If we hadn't been there, I don't know who would have addressed this toxic stuff.

I've been thinking about inhospitality. Our group informed our bishop about leafleting because we wanted to be no more confrontational than necessary. It was a way of being kind towards him and the Assembly, avoiding painful confrontation if we could. We also played by the rules, not leafleting tables inside the hall against Synod policy, even though we could have easily done so. When he took that information and went out of his way to encourage people to ignore our handouts, it was a vigorous slap in the face. I think I can speak for the others I sat with in saying we were shocked. Coming immediately after the sometimes nasty and un-Lutheran keynote speech, it was the low point of the Assembly for me, a moment of despair as much as anger.

What to make of all this? I’m still sorting that out. I’m struck that while we LGBT people see ourselves as heirs to the civil rights struggle, the offensive keynote speaker was African American, as was the congregation sponsoring an intensely homophobic resolution. There’s a big disconnect there. We need to own our part of that.

What struck me most, though, was this whole experience as a spiritual act. Those of us who spoke up felt surrounded by love and support from our community. We were one. It was a powerful moment of grace.

Speaking our truth to those who oppose us was also intensely spiritual. We tried (and I think succeeded) in being a prophetic voice. And we had literally dozens of people thank us afterwards, often telling their own stories. I heard from three parents who had gay sons or daughters who no longer attended church due to the kinds of attitudes we were there to oppose. We offered them hope. They understood we were advocating for their kids as much as for ourselves.

I’m also aware of how personally weary I am of all this. I did my first public speaking on behalf of GLBT people in 1978. I never expected this to become my life’s work."

More footage here.

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