Monday, April 12, 2010

Lutherans Concerned Triumphant

Shrimp again, with the reaction from Lutherans Concerned/North America.

ELCA Church Council approves all full-inclusion revisions without opposing votes

Sunday, 11 April 2010 17:33

This weekend, the ELCA Church Council meeting in Chicago moved the decision of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly into policy by replacing the language in church documents that excluded ministers in committed same-gender relationships with a policy that allows congregations and organizations to call a fully-qualified minister in a committed, same-gender relationship. And, the Council also approved the way to reinstate ministers who have been removed from the roster because of the previous policy and to receive ELM pastors onto the roster of the ELCA. The Council also made the benefits of the ELCA pension plan available to rostered ministers and employees in committed, same-gender relationships.

There were no votes on the Council opposing the adoption of the revised documents, the pension plan inclusion, and the rite of reception for those Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries pastors who were ordained “extra ordinem.”

The ELCA has reached two milestones long sought by the movement for full inclusion. First, it has eliminated all prohibitions against qualified people in a same-gender relationship serving on the ELCA’s roster of ministers. Second, and more importantly, it created a pathway that frees the gifts of ELCA members to pursue ministry and mission with new vigor. Each of these steps is crucial for both our continued healing and our bold walk into a more just future.

These actions are important because they are a major milestone along the journey of full inclusion. We have a policy that recognizes the gifts of its members to spread the good news of God in Christ Jesus and that will allow the return of those who have been removed or alienated from rostered leadership solely on the basis of the old policy.

Bishop Hanson said that one of the results of the Council’s actions would be new life in the church through new leaders. Bishop Hanson also thanked the Church Council for shepherding this task in most thoughtful way. He lifted the Conference of Bishops’ participation up as key to the process.

As we reflected on the great amount work and effort it took, we observed a paradox. On one hand, in order to follow God’s call for justice, the former policy forced us, as a community, to restrict how we could use our gifts. Many of us spent considerable time and effort working to make the ELCA a more inclusive church. However, even within a relatively narrow focus on the policy concerning LGBT people’s role within the church, we have lifted up crucial questions for the church: What is the relationship of sexuality to salvation in Christ? What is the diversity in God’s wondrous creation? What is sinful? How do Lutherans read and interpret scripture? Who continues to face barriers to ministry and mission? How do we journey together faithfully, in spite of so many differences? What some people have dismissed as a narrow issue has both opened up and profoundly deepened our moral and theological life. God indeed works in mysterious ways.

Although we are closer to full-participation than we ever thought that we would be, there is still further to go. The ELCA continues to be heavily involved in a myriad of issues as it reaches out in Christ’s name and mission. We pray that our well-earned celebration as a community of reconciliation will renew us, will energize us to go yet more miles with even more joy and less fear, together with the whole people of God, as we follow Christ in love, healing, and abundant life.

Since the August decision to change policy, we have heard from many of you that it feels as though celebration is “stuck in our throats.” Verily, the time has come to clear our throats. Currently, censures are being lifted from congregations, for which we can celebrate. Soon, we will start to see pastors received and reinstated across the whole church. By the time we gather together in Minneapolis at Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters, we will be ready to shout out in holy joy! We hope that you can join us in July to add your voice to the chorus of people singing praise and thanksgiving to God.

Finally, there are acknowledgements to make. There are so many people who have worked to overturn the policy of the ELCA for so long. Among them, we offer thanks to God for the past and present service of the Goodsoil Legislative Team, the Regional Coordinators, Board, and staff of LC/NA, countless volunteers in congregations and synods, and the working group of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Thanks be to God!

[An expanded version of this précis will appear in the upcoming Concord.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No opposing votes,expect, perhaps, the one abstention by The Rev. Keith A. Hunsinger, ELCA church council member, Oak Harbor, Ohio. (See the ELCA News Release on this, posted here at Shellfish.)It all depends on the church council's rules of procedure.

YHS (your humble servant) and parliamentary procedure afficianado notes that abstentions do sometimes count as "no" votes, as in when passage calls for a particular percentage of the voters present. For example, that's the requirement when a congregation is voting to leave the ELCA. An absetention then counts as a "No" vote.

Hunsinger's abstention makes the outcome less than unanimous, even if no "No" votes were cast. But, thats just MHO.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
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