I’ve heard that many times, from many friends in the last few years, as same-sex marriage rights are granted, then taken away, then granted again – perhaps elsewhere (and with ever-shrinking vote margins between those for and against)… as my own (institutional) church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, repeatedly debated its “stand” on homosexuality and how it would instruct pastors and congregations to receive openly gay persons in congregational life… and as openly gay, non-celibate seminarians and pastors tried to find ways to live out their calling in the church. A few years ago, the ban on ordaining non-celibate gay clergy was allowed to stand, but with the recommendation (if I’m remembering correctly) that regional bishops could use pastoral discretion in deciding whether to remove such pastors from the roster if they were already ordained. “Baby steps,” I thought then. But I was frankly not expecting major changes from this year’s Churchwide Assembly. In fact, I thought NPR was wildly overstating the case when they reported, a week before the assembly, that the ELCA was “on the brink” of sanctioning the ordination of gay clergy in committed relationships.
But then came the 66% vote adopting the Sexuality Social Statement. And the voting down of a procedural maneuver that would have required a 2/3 majority on the ordination vote, instead of a simple majority. Could the time finally be here?
Yes! Unbelievably, amazingly, yes. The Assembly voted to allow congregations “that choose to do so” to recognize same-sex marriages (this won’t help much in states that still refuse them, but the framework will be in place):
“Resolved that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous same gender relationships.”
“Resolved, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.”
I shared the news with my pastor, who was on vacation. “You must be so proud and grateful,” he said. Yes, that’s exactly it.
Many of the proceedings, and the lovely and thoughtful “pastoral remarks” from Bishop Hanson, can be viewed/read here.