Thursday, August 20, 2009

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Day Three

by Phil Soucy

666 may be the name of the Beast in Revelation, but in Minneapolis right now 66.67 is a glorious number... Just in case you hadn't heard from someone else, the Social Statement on Human Sexuality was adopted today with an exactly 2/3rds super-majority vote. Of 1014 votes cast.

It came as a surprise, no kidding, a surprise. I mean by that, I was sitting there staring at the numbers on the screen and realized that I had thought that we were not going to get enough votes. Not that I had decided that we were going to lose - I just thought that we wouldn't win. Make sense? Well, never mind,it made sense to me at the time.

It was an immaculate moment. Staring at the numbers. Immaculate.

We now have a document treating on sexuality that forms a far more appropriate basis for policy than that provided by the predecessor churches' documents. The great hope is that the church will be a better church for all of this. You will have seen the press release that contains our thoughts on this historic spiritual event.

And then there was the Scripture text for tonight's Goodsoil worship service at Central Lutheran Church, across from the Convention Center. Mark 4: 35-41. The story of crossing the Sea of Galilee during which Christ calmed the seas. The story in which it is said that "A great windstorm arose..." And it did.

We had a tornado, with not a lot of warning. The problem with being deep inside a large structure like the Convention Center is that you are completely insulated from what is going on outside. Suddenly there was a shrill lip whistle heard in Goodsoil Central and an authoritative voice said that "no option, you are required to go to the lowest level of the center and stay there. Tornado coming."

And it did, a real tornado. Came down on 12th Street between the Hilton Gardens we are staying in and Central Lutheran. All the tentage, tables, and chairs of the meal service and Pub that Central Lutheran had been using to support the assembly were pushed down and thrown around. Some of the table ended up on the roof of the Convention Center. We were hustled to the bottom floor of the Convention Center. The assembly kept meeting. Guess they thought the assembly was safe enough where it was. Luckily no one was injured near the Convention Center, and none of debris penetrated the substantial glass on the Center.

Then there was the storm in the Hall. Not a storm really, but certainly a tension of anticipation. The rule was that we would take care of the amendments to the Social Statement and then vote on the amended Social Statement. An Ad Hoc Committee had been formed to receive all the proposed changes to the Social Statement, make sense of them, and group them into those that the committee recommend approval and those it did not, with reasons. The ones the committee said to adopt went along fairly quickly. It was when the motions came up that committee recommended a No Adopt that the tension level went up a couple of clicks. These motions were very similar and clearly had the intention of watering down the Social Statement to accommodate more of the "marriage is between a man and a woman."

There was one brief moment when it looked like we were going to move without debate straight through the amendment we were working on to the actual Social Statement and vote without any parliamentary debate at all - just vote on the amendment then just turn right around and vote on the Social Statement, done. The motion was defeated, but it gave everyone a scare.

All the efforts to change the Social Statement to make it reflect a-man-and-a-woman bias, an exclusive bias, were defeated.

The time for debate had to be extended past the scheduled end time to allow for as much debate as had been scheduled. As the additional time was running down, finally a motion was made to call the question. And a vote was had, 676-338.

It was said that it was a close vote. Actually it wasn't. It was a vote in which the Social Statement received 2/3rds of the votes cast; that's not close.

Tomorrow we take up the Implementing Resolutions that flow from the Social Statement. And we will have the Committee of the Whole on the proposed change to ministry policies.

In the evening we had a most glorious worship, presided over by Bishop David Brauer-Rieke of Oregon Synod. Rev. Barbara Lundblad preached a spectacular sermon in which she focused on the questions contained in the Scripture cited above in Mark. More than 1000 worshipers filled the church at Central Lutheran, which had some damage to its exterior from the storm, but none to the inside.

Ross Murray said someone asked him if it was a sign from the Holy Spirit that a great wind arose when the question of the Social Statement was taken up in earnest. He said he replied that, yes, it could have been just as much a sign as was the sun coming out when the Social Statement passed.

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