“I Just Can’t Believe It”
I’ve heard this several times lately - no, not over my “Dread Pirate Larry” costume in honor of ”International Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September
18th - rather, it was over the vote over whether to allow openly gay clergy in relationships to serve in the ELCA, and whether to allow gay marriages to be performed or blessed. “You mean it DIDN’T pass???? Really?” Always the same, exact words generally followed with, “Why?"
So, I thought I would give a little rundown on the vote on the three recommendations of the Taskforce on Human Sexuality, and why it went as it did.
The First Recommendation, which required only a majority vote, urged the church to “find ways of living together faithfully.” This was the least controversial of the recommendations and passed handily.
The Second Recommendation, which originally concerned gay marriage in the ELCA, passed, but with a significant change. The language was changed from “urging pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same sex couples” to provide faithful pastoral care "for all to whom they minister." It required a 2/3rds majority, and passed as amended. For many, this was less troublesome than the original wording, but ultimately is confusing and frustrating. Ministering “to all” could be understood to mean just about anything It certainly leaves a loophole or two, and is being widely understood to allow for that. This will be the cause of future significant problems.
The Third Recommendation is the one that generated the most heat: it resolved that the “Visions and Expectations” for pastoral conduct be retained, but that exceptions be allowed for people in gay or lesbian lifelong, committed and faithful same-sex relationships. Essentially keep the rules, but ignore them when you want to. Kind of like the "Pirate’s Code” in the Disney movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean”: not really rules, more like guidelines (sorry for the pirate reference again-Arrrrr!). This required a 2/3rds majority to pass as well, but it failed.
Yup, it failed. Honest, it did. It perhaps wouldn’t have failed if people hadn’t made sure that significant changes to the life and custom of the church would require a 2/3rds majority. The final vote was 490-503, and every year this kind of thing comes up, the percentages get closer to passing - though I doubt it will ever get to the super-majority. You can bet that there are many people planning to make sure the rules are changed to require only a simple majority. It’s just a matter of time.
THAT’S why the Word Alone organization (www.WordAlone.org) is working to develop a conservative organization of Confessing Lutheran Churches to work within the ELCA to try to redirect the denomination along a more Scriptural path. Stay tuned for more developments on this in the next few months.
A correction from last month’s Caller - I will never hear the end of this, but in writing about my son Jonathan’s upcoming wedding, I got the date wrong... it will be next July 8th - I knew that, honest!
Blessings, Peace and Hope,