I struggle to find a single word that can describe my weekend at the Northeastern Ohio Synod Assembly. I can’t say that it was brutal or that it was affirming. It somehow lies between the two. It also depends on a particular time and place within the assembly. I think that I can summarize it in a single sentence: The synod assembly reflected the reality that a majority of NE Ohio Lutheran churches are not welcoming and affirming places for GLBT people.
I had made a statement similar to the above in an email to some fellow believers of full inclusion of GLBT people in the ELCA. A friend responded that my assessment was stark and somewhat disturbing. She followed that remark with a statement that unfortunately that rings true in her area of the country (Texas). I believe it rings true in most of the vast area of the USA between the coasts.
At this assembly…
A variety of verbal responses at the ELCA Draft Sexuality Statement hearings… took exception to same sex couples even being acknowledged as families by the ELCA… the unsuitability of raising children in same sex households… the need to ask same sex couples about their intimate sexual acts if they seek recognition of their relationships by the Church… the support of Old Testament passages on sexuality regardless of the fact that many other portions of this text are routinely considered out of date and out of context for current society… and an implication that love and commitment needs to be better defined for the benefit of LGBT people.
A positive note from these hearings is the fact that a person in a same sex committed relationship of 24 years received applause from a majority of the audience when he spoke of his son, partner and relationship as being as legitimate as any heterosexual relationship. A closing word of wisdom was a remark from another supporter who reiterated that the Church has no business inquiring on one’s sexual practices, both gay and straight. She received the only other applause during the hearing.
A Synod GLBT Task Force sponsored resolution asking the synod to urge legislators to include GLBT people in the list of people protected under hate crime legislation failed by a 60/40 vote. There were a variety of mean spirited remarks made during this vote including… the resolution was submitted on the floor to deny people time to review it.. it was part of a gay agenda that had implications beyond the hate crime legislation… and a lawyer pronounced that this resolution was just not quite right and could be misused in a variety of ways. To me this as the saddest part of the weekend that our synod could not support the protection of the rights of GLBT people against hate crimes.
A positive aspect of the weekend was our presence at the resource fair. Our display received many supportive visitors. We did not receive any negative responses. We did get some good prospects for our RIC training and a person volunteered to serve on our task force. Regardless of votes, I think this display is important to remind people that we are still here, still gay and still looking for inclusion.
Where will the ELCA stand after next year’s Churchwide Assembly? Who knows? I do support many speakers assertion at the sexuality draft hearings that the ELCA needs to stop creating documents that attempt to please everyone. They have done this for 10 years with no one being happy. They need to take a stand one way or the other and take the consequences. Some will go, but some will come. Most of all, the discussion will be done.