Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And Good Soil sent this to Church Wide Assembly goers:

Good Soil sent me CWA voting folks an 8 page newsletter. One of the pages is called Questions and Answers.

Why not delay any more conversation about the ordination of partnered gay clergy until after the social statement on sexuality has been approved?
The guide Journey Together Faithfully Part 3: Free to Serve the Neighbor, is not intended to offer study resources or guidance to the church regarding homosexuality, blessings of relationship or partnered gay clergy.At CWA 2005 the assembly considered numberous resolutions regarding the recommendations of the Sexuality Task Force. The upshot was a collection of votes which confirmed our desire to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements, stayed the course with intentional ambiguity concerning blessings of same-gender relationships, and said what we don't want relative to ordination but not what we do want. The critical vote of the day was the defeat of a motion to enforce the current policy of exclusion. The recommendation of the Church Council on an exception policy for partnered gay pastors failed to reach a majority by only seven votes.

You should know that many gay, lesbian, and allied voting members were not in favor of the exception policy and voted against it since it would have established extra rules for the qualification of partnered gay clergy as well as a second class of rostered clergy. If we don't change the policy in 2007, the issues will stand before us again at Churchwide 2009 and beyond until the policy is changed. If we do not come to terms with out disagreements regarding homosexuality, we will not be able to pass a social statement of human sexuality which will require a two-thirds majority vote. Meanwhile pastors, like Bradley, stand trial or are pressured to resign their calls. How many gifted pastors must we lose, until the church says enough is enough and the policy fails?

Why all the fuss about the story of just one person?
We are concerned about Bradley--but also about many others. Because of the policies currently in place, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the ELCA have been denied their calling to the ordained ministry. Pastor Schmeling's story is just one of many similar situations occuring since the beginning of the ELCA. See the timeline beginning on page 6 listing the 4 trials the ELCA has conducted, the 12 otherwise qualified seminarians which the ELCA wouldn't approve for ordinations, 7 ELCA rostered leaders that have been defrocked or forced to resign, 3 congregations removed from the ELCA, 7 ELCA congregations which have been disciplined, and 15 Extraordinary Candidacy Project pastors currently serving ELCA and Independent Lutheran Congregations. Ultimately, the current policies impoverish the whole church--all laypersons, all ordained clergy, all servants, all leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Are the policies precluding homosexuals from the ordained ministry of this church part of the ELCA constitution?
No, they are not. In Chapter 7, the constitution gives the standards for ordained ministers which include commitment to Christ; soundness of faith; aptness to preach, teach and witness; educational qualifications; examination; proper call and ordaination; acceptance and adherance to the Confession of Faith; diligence and faithfulness in the exercise of the ministry; and life and conduct above reproach. An ordianed minister shall comply with the constitution of this church. the constitution does not mention homosexuality.

Why aren't the policies included in the constitution?
Those on the first ELCA church Council detemined that policies like Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline for rostered leaders and Vision and Expectations for ministerial candidates should be separated from the constitution, allowing for the use of discretion in their application. The constitution sets the firm boundaries for the denomination. Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority of voting members of the Churchwide Assembly over two consecutive assemblies. the constitution is not easily changed. The first Church Council saw that, over time, situations might occur requiring change in the policy documents; therefore these policies should not rise the authoritative level of the constitution.

Who put the policy in place?
There is a constitutionally prescribed process for the creation of Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations, the Committee on Appeals presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which edited it to include the current language precluding practicing homosexuals for the ordained ministry. The Council passed the policy in November 1989. The policiy was never approved by the CWA.For Vision and Expectations, the Division for Ministry in consultation with the Conference of Bishops presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which was edited to include the phrase, "persons who are homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain from Homosexual sexual relationships." The Church Council passed Vision and Expectations in October 1990. The policy was never approved by the CWA.

Must the policies in Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations comport with the ELCA Constitution?
Yes, they must. Until the Schmeling trial, no one has challenged the constitutionality of the policies excluding partnered gay pastors.

Which entity holds the highest legislative authority in the ELCA?
The Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA. The ELCA Church Council has interim authority between CW assemblies.

Can the ELCA CWA change the policies excluding partnered gay clergy?
While the CWA may not change the policies outright, according to Secretary Almen, the assembly may direct the appropriate units of the church to change the policies. Consequently, memorials regarding policy change must be worded carefully to direct the responsible entities within the ELCA structure to make the changes as instructed. Such memorials directing change will require a simple majority pass.

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