Today the ELCA begins their 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, the holy city of American Lutheranism. Over 1,000 delegates from across the USA will meet as this weeklong biennial meeting and make a variety of decisions on the life of the denomination.
This year the ELCA is adopting a sexuality statement. It’s a pretty broad statement addressing many issues of sexuality. Of course the most controversial topics center on GLBT issues of inclusivity, recognition and support by the Church. The two items in this debate that will be the most visible are the rostering of GLBT pastors in committed relationships and the recognition of same sex couple marriages by the Church.
This past weekend NPR on “All Things Considered” alluded to the fact that they thought that it was inevitable that the assembly delegates adopt the statements supporting GLBT people as clergy and recognize their relationships. Goodsoil, the GLBT supportive advocacy group is also reporting support by the majority of synods across the USA. Locally at our synod assembly, we adopted two GLBT supportive resolutions not related to these issues.
I think there is change in the air. I tend to be more conservative in my analysis of these discussions. Recently Lutheran Concerned published what I see as a map of GLBT inclusivity in the USA. It color coded synods according to their action and results on resolutions calling for GLBT inclusion in the Church. What is evident from this map is that the “core” Lutheran Midwest states are less apt to vote for inclusion. I think it will be difficult to pass GLBT inclusive resolutions at Churchwide without the support of these synods.
Here’s my prediction for the week’s activities in Minneapolis. I think the Church will make steps closer to GLBT inclusion. The acceptance of GLBT clergy is just a step too far at this time. I think that it will not pass all the political hoops that it has to pass to become a reality. I do think the ELCA will pass some sort of resolution that will allow synods to recognize same sex marriages. This seems like a natural given the fact that several states now allow same sex marriage.
I hope that the week will be a week of good discussion and progress for GLBT inclusion in the ELCA. I hope that both sides on this issue listen to each other and come to a fair compromise. The time has come to move on from this division. As the NPR story implied, if change does not happen this year, it will definitely happen in 2011.