Saturday, June 6, 2009


My name is Erik, and I'm a Church Nerd.

My addiction?

Finding out what happens at ELCA synod assemblies.

Facebook status updates, Twitter hashtags, and blogs only make it easier for me to troll around and find out what's going on around the denomination...which, of course, feeds the need for more official (and, more importantly, UNofficial) information of what's going on.

It seems that every assembly is having lengthy discussions about the sexuality resolutions that are being voted on at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in August. Synods aren't just taking about the resolutions...they're discussing 50% + 1 vs. 2/3 majority...they're voting on whether or not to affirm the resolutions...they're going into "committee of the whole" discussions that lead to additional resolutions and more voting. Suffice it to say, thus far, synod assemblies have once again been defined by sexuality debates.

I just have one question: WHY?

To my knowledge, there is no authority in what the synods are voting on at this point. Even if all 65 synods voted in favor of or against the resolutions, it wouldn't really matter. At this stage of the game, the only votes of significance are those cast at the Churchwide Assembly. Synod delegates to the Assembly are not required to vote on behalf of their synodical what's the point of voting as a synod if the delegates are going to vote their conscience in August?

Synod assemblies are intended to be a celebration of the past year's ministry and a look ahead to the coming year. It's a time to worship, pray, discuss, and join in fellowship. It's a time to bring people together to talk about mutual ministry and share successes and failures within congregations. Therefore, why make another year of synodical work boil down to an argument about whether or not openly gay pastors can serve churches, or if the church should be allowed to bless the unions of same-sex couples? Haven't we been down this road a time or two?

Perhaps I'm just tired of so much time, money, energy, and PR being poured into this conversation. Maybe I just think we need to focus more resources on feeding hungry people, working for immigration reform, giving better support to rostered and non-rostered leaders, and figuring out why our church has been shrinking for most of my lifetime. Sexuality (and, by extension, the church's view thereof) is important...but shouldn't dominate.

And yet, for another year, the 65 synods of our beloved ELCA will be mired in a debate that cannot be won...about a topic that most people cannot a church body that has given the decision-making authority to a group of 1,000 people that won't gather for another 2 months.


  1. I feel silly responding/explaining this to a bishop's son... In this case, synod's "memorialize" (strange word!) the churchwide assembly in order to pass along the 'sense' of the synod assembly. Sort of like a poll. It has no official standing. It's just supposed to make us feel like our voice has been heard (except when our voice falls on the losing side of the vote).

    Looks like the NE Iowa Synod is going to memorialize the ELCA to defeat both the sexuality statement and the implementing resolutions. Let our voices be heard! :-(

    In other cases 'memorials' can be helpful... such as the memorial that the NC synod sent to the churchwide assembly a few years ago, asking for something to be done about biblical literacy, which resulted two years later in the Book of Faith initiative.

    Speaking of nerding synod assemblies, have you seen this?

  2. I think it's helpful for the CWA voting members to get a sense of what the lanscape looks like.

    Particularly for folks like those in NE Iowa who don't understand why it keeps being brought up when it's "obvious" (to them) that "EVERYONE" is against it. The votes show how we don't agree. Even when they voted to memorialize CWA to vote down both statement and recommendations it was not by much - 200-150.

  3. Well, in my church (a large church in IL) there's been no discussion since the first round of sexuality materials. Why? I get the sense most are a bit unsure of what's the "right" thing to do (me too). Also, more important things are needing our attention such as the ones you mention.

  4. Dwight & Joelle:
    Thanks for offering additional insight to the process of synod assembly memorials. I understand and appreciate how these kinds of votes can be helpful in some cases...I just don't know why we need to invest synodical resources on this particular issue for another year.

    (Yes, Dwight, I did see Tammy's "rant" at her synod assembly. Love her!!!)

    Has there been any backlash from folks in your congregation that wish you would address the sexuality issue more? Do they feel left out of the process?

  5. Ummm, I'm not sure what you mean by "backlash." I believe there has not been any formal discussion because the majority do not see the point.

  6. Steven,

    I was just curious if people wished they would have been more involved in the larger church's conversation about sexuality stuff...or if your church's lack of "official" conversation ever came back to bite you down the road. My sense is that the average parishoner in the pew doesn't really care to engage in such a hotly-contested conversation, which means that they'd rather leave theological nuances to the scholars. I don't's a tough one.

  7. Erik,
    No, I do not think on this issue the "average" parishoner is punting. We had all kinds of classes offered and attended over the first material released from the ELCA. Plenty of discussion. I think it's a moot issue for most here.

    As for what my church's response might be if the ELCA does or does not pass the measure (as opposed to tabling it) I don't know. I'm on the church council here, have been for 4 years. I've worked, volunteered, whatever with high school folks for.....a really long time. On and been on multitudes of ministry teams. DISCLAIMER; THE FOLLOWING IS MY OPINION, OBSERVATIONS ONLY. Most folks here are not passionate one way or another on the issue of homosexuals in the church. Other parts of that discussion are a slightly different matter.

    Our church's "official" stance is whether you as an individual or us as a church body are for or against this issue, let's talk about it. Bring it up to the pastors, bring it to church council, but it's not an issue to get worked up over to divide the ELCA.

    So in summary, we are Switzerland. Shoot, we started a large expansion/remodeling project. Know any homosexuals who are sharp, monogamous, conservative (no orange hair nor their butt-cheeks hanging out at Gay Day in Orlando) looking for a church home, call me. -Big Grin-.

    BTW, I was at a high school graduation party yesterday. Looked through the yearbook for this HS (there's 4 in town) and saw they had a Gay club. Surprised me.


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