Now that I'm back home from the Chicago churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I've had some time to reflect a bit on what occurred during those six steamy days.
I attended a non-assembly service that was sponsored by the Lutherans Concerned/North America and Goodsoil folks, two groups calling for approval of homosexual behavior. To call it a service would be a disservice. It was really more of a rally in celebration of a lifestyle that runs counter to the Biblical paradigm for marriage and the family. The texts for the creed and the Lord's Prayer were not the ones in our hymnals. References to God were thoroughly gender neutral. It was not an inclusive service at all, but a quite exclusive occasion to celebrate who "we" are as over against who "they" are.
The passage of the resolution on "restraint in discipline" was surely the biggest disappointment. I do think, however, that we need to be clear among ourselves about what the resolution does and does not do. The resolution does not change Vision and Expectations and Definitions and Guidelines. Persons who are practicing gays and lesbians still are precluded from ordination. What the resolution permits is that, under certain circumstances, a synodical bishop may choose not to discipline a pastor who is in an active homosexual relationship. My hunch is that only a few bishops will avail themselves of this permission. I also suspect that only a few pastors in gay relationships will avail themselves of this possibility. Time will tell, but, bad as the resolution is, it does not open the gates to the ordinations of active gay and lesbian persons.
It is my hope that all of us will stay within the ELCA and work hard toward bringing about an orthodox, confessional statement on human sexuality at the 2009 churchwide assembly.
The next two years will be difficult and turbulent times for our church. We need to put all of our energy into plans for the 2009 churchwide assembly. To that end, I hope we are all planning to attend the Sept. 28 Lutheran CORE gathering at St. Mark Lutheran Church, Lindenhurst, Ill., 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Register for this event!