ELCA Votes to Allow Gay Clergy to Be in “Committed Same-Sex Relationships”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at its Church wide Assembly voted that its bishops should refrain from disciplining rostered workers who are in a "mutual, chaste and faithful same-sex relationship."
After several votes turning down efforts to change the ELCA’s "Visition and Expectations" document that governs the standards required for rostered workers, in order to permit such relationships, this was a substitute motion to ask at least for there to be an end to any disciplinary efforts against such rostered workers, a "cease fire" or a "time out" as it was put on the floor during the debate.
My sense is that many of the voting members of the Assembly simply had been worn out emotionally by the plaintive speeches made by, and for, homosexuals in relationships and this was perhaps regarded as a gesture of conciliation. Upon further reflection perhaps a number who voted for this will realize that they have, effectively, just given a green light to what in Scripture is very much a large, flashing red light and "danger" sign.
The best speech on this matter, in my opinion, was given by a dairy farmer from Wisconsin who rose and said, simply and powerfully:
I’ve listened to the debates over homosexuality all week. This debate is literally breaking my heart. In this post-modern world
which says everyone defines what is right or wrong for himself/herself,
the idea of discipline for violating boundaries is viewed as injustice.
We can not live our lives without boundaries. I’m a dairy farmer and I
work daily around large animals and large pieces of equipment. We
raised five children who always wanted to be with dad. Because I loved them
I built a fence and they had to stay in the boundaries of the fence, even if
they cried or begged. They could climb out. When they did they were
disciplined. It did not matter how much they wanted to be with me, or I
with them. Our Creator has given us boundaries, if we could live within
those boundaries a need for discipline would not exist.
Here is the full text of the notes I prepared while watching/listening to the ELCA Assembly. I thought the
floor speeches were particularly interesting.
They just voted to close debate on all matters before the house: all the sexuality issues, effectively.
they are going to vote on the amendment before the house, which would
ammend the memorials committee recommendation to add a new final
paragraph which would read to direct the Task Force to address
specifically and make recommendations on changes on any policies re.
homosexuals on the roster.
Adopted (simple majority required)
now being voted on to put in place an exception policy by which Synod
bishops "for pastoral reasons and for the sake of mission and mission"
would permit a person in "mutual chaste and faithful relationship" may
be on the roster and subject to no future discipline for this situation.
Defeated (majority required — 53 votes shy of approval).
Final vote to amend
Recommendation as amended is adopted.
So….the bullet was just barely dodged on these issues.
E3 Now before assembly, p. 69, Section 6.
problems persist - they can not fix hum completely until the break -
power circuit has been blown - short in circuit somewhere, apologies
First speaker recognized. Called the question.
Vote to end debate results: failed to close debate
No: 320 (approx) 2/3 required to close debate, only got 62%
Delegates are getting impatient to move along.
is open (Some confusion. Chairman humorously says: "Help me out
bishops, if you are going to shout out advice, make it be true! "- good
Substitute to amend now being made:
The CWA prays,
urges and encourages all bishops, synods, etc. etc. … to refrain from
any disciplinary action against any person in a mutual, chaste,
same-gender relationship and that the CWA prays, urges and encourages
all … to refrain from disciplining any rostered person in mutual,
chaste, faithful same-gender relationship.
This is yet one more
"last stand" measure to permit exceptions and to permit actively
homosexual persons to continue in ministry and office without any
Speaking to motion:
I think 21 Synods that have
memorialized the Synod. We have been totally ignored. The hospitality
is not carying through. We pray somebody will listen to us and give us
some breathing space to do what God is calling us to do – [angry
speeches usually don't work well, particularly after the issue has been
voted down now twice].
Call question on all matters before the house now made.
Motion is to close debate on all matters, both substitute and the recommendation from memorial committee.
Point of clarification now being asked: person complaining about call of the question. It is an appropriate motion.
Vote on ending debate on these
Motion to close debate on all matters is defeated 541 voted yes, needed 2/3
Now debate on this substitute resolution to grant exemption from discipline for all same-gender relationships.
now saying that all exceptions have been made by bishops, calling on
the ELCA to set aside its decisions. Distressing to the faithful to see
bishops, who are to be signs and symbols of unity, introducing
dissension. We need to consider how we are going to be church when the
bishops are introducing dissention.
Speaking in favor of
substitute: We have heard encouragement to journey together faithfully
… we should ask our bishops to not take actions against same-gender
relationships. We ask them to wait with us then we need to refrain from
disciplining faithful leaders. If we do not do this we injure the
mission/ministry of the ELCA. We have removed faithful leaders and
disrupted congregation’s ministry. Cost too high to a great church. How
much more time, money resource are we going to squander. Let’s have a
cease-fire. Let’s take a time-out. Let’s have time to listen to each.
Stop the bleeding of our church. Focus on mission and ministry, no more
trials like Pastor Schmeling which leave body broken and bruised, a
visible and public black eye. It is fair, wise and pastoral thing to do.
TX-LA Synod speaker – I too would like to talk about the process we
have engaged in and trying to get in the back door what we are
preventing from happening through front door. Two days ago we refused
to bless same-sex unions. Not we are trying to get in the back door
what we did not do through the front door. I urge us not to make
haphazard piecemeal policy but to create comprehensive solution at
2009, pass it one way or the other. Let us not give to the rostered
leaders what we are not willing to give to the laity. If the leadership
of the LBGT community have not given any relief to the laity in
blessing same-sex unions, we only want to talk about rostered. This is
haphazard, self-serving and piece-meal policy that should not be
followed. Let’s come back next time with comprehensive solution.
for substitute: Seeking restraint means asking bishops emphasizing
relationships over rigid system. God’s house has many doors. Sometimes
we even lower people through roof. Moderation in discipline is an
example of living together faithfully.
question: The language is confusing to me: The CWA urges,
encourages….refrain from and demonstrate restraint…I’m not sure
what these terms really mean. What does this mean? It might be
interpreted the wrong way. Chair asked Bishop who made motion to
respond to the question [nice way to give him more time to lobby for
it]…"An attempt to put in a couple of different ways with words to
put restraint into discipline process."
Next speaker: Speaking
in favor of memorial. If we adopt this substitute we do adopt a
practice we have not yet determined is faithful or permitted in this
Next speaker: Steven Bauman, Metro New York: Yesterday,
Pastor Foster shared story of her family and congregation she serves,
South Bronx. This church serves people in poverty and is of people in
poverty. What good would it do to do anything but support her and her
ministry? You take a child, baptize, catechize that child, you stretch
our you hopes, that child comes to New York. That church comes to New
York and is gay. Give us some pastoral room! We want to be your parnter:
Paul was off an adventure for the Church but Jesus blew him out of the
saddle. I have studied and read everything I can and I see our Church
not following its own teachings. It is very important that we go back
and wait and do our work. Continuing to try to find a way arond what we
should be doing and doing these back door entries is not the way to
accomplish this. It is very important if we are going to talk about
cease-fire and restraint then we need to stop ordaining and placing
people who would be subject to the discipline of church. Cease-fire is
two ways. Stop prosecuting and stop placing! I do not see that in this
resolution. I see it as permission fr those bishops who wish to violate
and to continue to ordain and to place pastors who do not meet V/E.
Cease fire must come from both.
White card: If we would put from
"or" in refrain from or demonstrate….bishop speaking to his
resolution again. Maker put that in by unan. consent.
Christopher Barry, campus pastors in NW Washington Synod. Work with
hundreds of young adults. Presbyterian and Methodists, Jewish center,
Muslims in our center,come to studies. I work with students. Our job as
campus pastors and other peoples in the church and others working with
outside people. We need constantly time and resources we need because
we are spending so much time and money rooting out pastors. This sub.
resolution does not talk about ordaining LBGT people. All it says is
bishops can work on miss/min and to allow them to support evang. and
mentoring and leadership dev, to deal with poverty and justice instead
of dealing with this issue. We need to get on with mission/ministry in
our location and dozens of others. Adopt this.
Minneapolia area Synod. This debate is literally breaking my heart. In
this post-modern world which says everyone defines what is right or
wrong for himself/herself, the idea of discipline for violating
boundaries is viewed as injustice. We can not live our lives without
boundaries. I’m a dairy farmer and I work daily around large animals
and large pieces of equipment. We raised five kids who always wanted to
be with dad. Because I loved them I built a fence and they had to stay
in boundaries of the fence even if they cried begged. They could climb
out. When they did they were disciplined. It did not matter how much
they wanted to be with me, or I with them. Our Creator has given us
boundaries, if we could live within those boundaries need for
discipline would not exists.
Speaker: Same man asking for more
clarification from maker of motion. Word "or" does not clarfy. Chairman
said, "Take your turn in line because those questions go into
expressions of response." Wait your turn and wait to you have a turn. I
do not regard it as priv. motion to interrupt debate.
order: According to my time, we have passed twenty minutes for prayer
and vote. Chairman is checking. We have one minute to go.
Met. New York Synod: "How many?" We have devotional books this week
that show us people who have been embraced by their bishops. We all
benefit from their service. How many of them will we remove? If we are
going to have fair policy. Every last one should be removed? How many
good pastors can we sacrifice? How much can the Gospel afford this?
Chairman now calling for minute of silence, followed by his prayer.
Chairman now using historic collect.
Now vote on substitute motion by Bishop Landau
by question. "I’d like the governing body to reconsider earlier rule of
debate." Will take it up after vote, chair responds.
Vote to substitute the "no discipline" motion. Passed.
Substitute motion is before the assembly.
Very close vote to accept, one of closest at assembly.
of order: Speaker claims the motion is in effect asking the ELCA is
asking that a bylaw be negated and that therefore a 2/3 vote should be
required to approve since effectively this says we will not enforce a
bylaw and negating therefore a 2/3 vote is required.
Another speaker: Depending on chair’s ruling on question, wait to speak.
The question is allowed re. Constitutionality of the matter. If bylaw
is negated then a 2/3 vote should be required, claims the person asking
[McCain aside: This has now become the key moment
at the Assembly, for the CWA just voted effectively to urge its
bishops, synod, etc. to take no actions against same-sex relationships
amongs its rostered church workers, my sense is that some delegates
view this as 'fair' while perhaps not fully appreciating how it
effective negates the decisions to wait to take any action until the
2009 Assembly. Emotion will win the day on this.]
Long pause now while chair seeks clarification and decides. This is his key decision. Almen is now offering his opinion.
said: "The question is whether motion on floor effectively amends
bylaws. Answer is NO. Bylaws remain in place in Chap. 20, but what is
being addressed in motion on floor relates to application of policies
adopted under the bylaws and provided for bylaws. Therefore we are not
dealing with a de facto or direct amendment to bylaws. Therefore, given
that interpretation, ruling is majority vote only and is therefore
adopted. [In other words, since the bylaw is not being changed, no 2/3].
5: Move to suspend rules and request because of the profound
implications passing this resolution would have for governance. This
resolution should be passed by 2/3 majority.Calling for suspension of
rule. Not debatable. Point of order raise.Chair warns it is not
Speaker calls for suspending rules in order to require a 2/3 vote on this matter.
raised again. Chair explains that Bishop Landau’s substitute is before
the house majority required to pass it. Speaker just moved that a 2/3
vote be used to adopt Landau’s substitute motion.
Now vote on motion to suspend rules to require 2/3 vote on the next vote.
Point of order raised: If we do not adopt by 2/3, then we just go on to next section of memorials.
Voting to suspend rules to require 2/3. Takes 2/3 to adopt
Motion to suspend rule is defeated.
Main motion now before the assembly. We have completed twenty minutes allotted.
Main motion before assembly, to suspend any discipline.
Majority required to adopt.
Motion is adopted.
ELCA CWA has voted to urge/encourage all its bishops, synods, etc. to
"refrain" from and "demonstrate restraint" in taking any disciplinary
actions against any rostered worker in a same-gender mutual, chaste and
Sorry for the spelling errors and typos
but was typing as listening. Richard just pointed out to me that it
would be incorrect to say that the ELCA as a Church has voted it will
take no discipline against same-sex relationships, but rather that the
CWA adopted an expression of its will directed toward those who do have
the responsibility for discipline in the church.
So, what has
now happened is that the ELCA now has effectively urged all of its
bishop to cease and desist from taking any disciplinary actions against
homosexuals in relationships. What will faithful bishops do? Can they
follow this direction and still discipline those pastors who are living
as homosexuals with their partners? How would this be possible if they
are to "refrain from" and "demonstrate restraint" in taking any
My apologies for any typos, etc. in the above material. I was typing as I was listening.