As you have more than likely heard and as have been widely reported (NYTimes, LATimes, StarTrib) the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted yesterday at their General Assembly to allow congregations that so choose to call gay and lesbian pastors who may be in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." As reported, there were many heartfelt arguments and biblical quotations on both sides of the issue.
The ELCA took a five step process to the final vote starting with voting on a 50 page Social Statement on Human Sexuality. All the news reports after the adoption of the statement focused on the 2 pages that dealt with homosexuality and ignored the 48 pages that dealt with human sex trafficking, sex abuse, sex trade, pornography, and many other sex issues of our times.
Prior to the final vote, which happened around 6 PM on Friday, August 21, Presiding Bishop Hanson asked for calm when the vote was tallied and then lead the assembly in a prayer. It was surprising to me just how calm the assembly was when the vote was announced (I watched the proceedings on the ELCA's webcast). I also appreciated the words of reconciliation given by Bishop Hanson immediately following the vote.
Since the purpose of this blog is to talk about ministry in the rural setting, the question to be asked is, "How does this affect STAR (see this blog's banner) churches?" My general feeling is that most rural churches and their members, both denominational and non-denominational, are conservative in life and theology. Some rural ELCA churches may contemplate leaving the denomination. Rural churches who are not ELCA may wonder what is happening and how a denomination can leave the historic and (some would say) scriptural stance of Christianity. (Please note, as stated above, both sides of the issue quoted scripture to bolster their understanding of God's call to faithful living.)
This is a tough issue with many passionate advocates on both sides, but there are no easy answers. The vote of the ELCA leaves room for churches to live out their understanding of scripture and tradition. Those churches that believe that gays and lesbians are called by God to serve as clergy are now free to call them. Those churches that take the opposing view are free to not call gay and lesbian pastors. I believe that most STAR churches will not be calling gay and lesbian pastors.
Finally, the conservative blogs are probably all over this vote and deriding the ELCA. I am also fairly certain that the liberal blogs are praising the action. I will do some searching but I wonder if there are some middle of the road blogs who are discussing the vote. Too many people see issues only in black and white. Can we ever come up with understandings that remain faithful to God and Jesus Christ without alienating or shutting out people from the family of God?
Update: Blogs and columns with a balanced view.
1. David Gibson at Politics Daily
2. Clerical Whispers
3. Patrick Condon at Associated Press
4. Gregory Jackson at Ichabod, the Glory Has Departed
A good argument from the left: Faithful Progressive (esp. comment #7, the longest)
If I see a good argument from the right without vitriol I'll post it.
I found one: The Three-Legged Stool