My name is Erik, and I'm a Church Nerd.
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 constituancy...so 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 understand...in 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.