Friday, July 07, 2006

News from the Front

Well, we were happy and full of hope this morning on account of the ruling of the Supreme Court of New York, but sadly, seems the good, religious Lutheran folk of Canada couldn't muster as much clarity as secular New York:

Synod softens stand on gay unions

Lutherans vote on 'local option' for blessings

WATERLOO (Jul 7, 2006)

Homosexual Lutheran couples from Ontario to the Maritimes could soon have their relationships blessed by their pastors.

In a historic move during their biennial convention in Waterloo yesterday, Eastern Synod delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada voted 197-75 to allow individual congregations to decide whether to perform blessings for same-sex couples.

"It was clear," said Rev. Michael Pryse, the Eastern Synod bishop. "That's solid support."

The decision came after about an hour of passionate debate that left opponents of same-sex blessings sombre.

"It's a triumph of emotion over reason," said Ken Shultz, a lay delegate from Ottawa.

In Canada, the only other mainline church body allowing blessings for same-sex couples is the Anglican Church of Canada's New Westminster diocese in B.C.

The United Church of Canada is the only mainline denomination in Canada that will marry same-sex couples.

The decision by Lutheran delegates in Waterloo yesterday allows pastors to bless the unions of same-sex couples -- who commit to being in lifelong relationships -- only after pastors consult their bishop and after a two-thirds majority vote by the congregation.

The move is known as the "local option."

The decision does not allow gay couples to wed in Lutheran churches.

It could be months before homosexual Lutheran couples can get their unions blessed.

Opponents plan to table a motion at the synod convention, today or tomorrow, to appeal yesterday's decision.

They argue delegates didn't have the jurisdiction to hold the vote because delegates to a national convention last year rejected a motion that was nearly identical.

Opponents from any synod can ask the National Church Council -- an executive committee of clergy and lay people with bishops acting as non-voting advisers -- to forward the appeal to a national church court. The synod's jurisdiction to hold yesterday's vote is debatable, said Pryse, the synod's bishop.

"I think a good case can be made one way or the other."

Pryse said if an appeal gets underway, he will ask pastors and congregations to hold off on performing blessings "until there is clarity."

Pryse didn't vote yesterday but said he was "pleased" with the result.

Despite the outcome of any possible appeal, the consequences for the Eastern Synod aren't clear, according to Rev. Raymond Schultz, the church's national bishop.

"The court has no apparatus for enforcing its ruling," he said in an interview moments after the vote.

More than a dozen delegates lined up at microphones for the duration of the hour-long debate.

Supporters of the "local option" outnumbered opponents more than two to one.

Nancy Mayberry, a foreign languages scholar and lay delegate from Aylmer, Ont., supported the local option.

She said people can read the same Scriptures and come up with different interpretations.

And when there is a choice between legalism and grace, she said, "go with grace."

Rev. Frank Haggarty, pastor at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener, pointed out that if the "local option" were approved, no congregation would be forced to bless same-sex couples. "If my congregation says no -- it's no."

Opponents of same-sex blessings argued they are staying true to Scripture.

Rev. Paul Jensen, a pastor from St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Bridgewater, N.S., said supporters of same-sex blessings are absolving individuals of the capacity to sin.

And he bristled at suggestions he doesn't care for his parishioners if he doesn't support same-sex blessings.

"Please don't tell me I don't love my gay and lesbian (parishioners)," he said. "I do love them, but I'm not going to marry them."

Rev. Joachim Knaack, a retired pastor from Toronto, predicted dire consequences if delegates approved the blessings.

"This is a matter that will divide the church forever," he said.

Rev. Peeter Vanker, a retired pastor living in Markham who opposes same-sex blessings, said the outcome of yesterday's vote will cause deeper division between Lutherans across Canada.

"It's going to drive an even stronger wedge between us in the East and them in the West," he said.

Delegates re-elected Pryse as bishop of the Eastern Synod. First elected in 1998, Pryse will serve a third four-year term.

The synod conference ends Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!

Peace in the Lord whose mercy calls people from death to life, from disobedience to obedience of faith.

Rob Buechler

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