Archive for November, 2009

R. Benne: Unintended Effects

November 28, 2009

Posted as a page to the right (here) is an excellent short piece by Robert Benne on the “unintended effects” of the Assembly’s action.
A comment: Benne’s first paragraph is an accurate description of what the documents from the Sexuality Task Force said: the ELCA has no agreement on these issues and thus it should allow a diversity of practice. That proposal implies (and the Task Force explicitly said) that no particular position should be privileged. What we got, when the proposals were revised and then interpreted by those who did the revisions, is a policy that embodies one side of the debate, allowing only a limited ability for individuals and congregations to avoid the consequences of that policy.
Michael Root


Synod Council Acts

November 19, 2009

No news has been released from last weekend’s meeting of the ELCA Church Council in relation to the revision of Vision and Expectations and the candidacy process, with the exception of a news release on reinstatement procedures. One presumes something will be forthcoming, almost certainly saying that the Council followed the lead of the bishops and will not act on these matters until next spring at the earliest. In the meantime, the Northeast Iowa Synod Council adopted the resolutions posted to the right (here) declaring their intent to exercise their bound conscience and directing the synod not to abide by the Assembly action. They also call for a recognition that the actions were unconstitutional.
All very interesting. More comment to follow.

An Alternative Path

November 11, 2009

The way forward embodied in the proposed revisions to the candidacy process that will be considered this weekend by the ELCA Church Council is a ‘preserve the status quo’ option. It maintains, at least officially, the unity of the ELCA ministerium and treats the crisis created by the action of the Churchwide Assembly as a passing cloud. The concessions to bound conscience are less even than those granted to opponents of the agreement with the Episcopal Church that committed the ELCA to enter episcopal succession. Candidates opposed to episcopal succession can, in certain cases, be ordained in a way that contradicts Assembly-adopted policy. In our present case, individuals involved in decision making within the candidacy process can remove themselves from participation, but no decision is to utilize sexuality standards other than those approved by national policy.

What would an alternative look like, an alternative that embodies the promise of the Task Force to respect the consciences of synods, bishops, candidacy committees, etc.? It would not be pretty. It would severely compromise the unity of the ELCA ministerium; the ELCA would cease to be a single church in the traditional sense. But that result was built into the Report and Recommendations of the Task Force, as is discussed in the paper to the right (here). That Report was never repudiated by the church leadership. It is late in the day now to say “Oh, those results would be too radical.”

An alternative that avoids chaos as much as possible might look like this:

1. Synods are ‘church’ in the ELCA ecclesiology. They have ecclesial standing and can make corporate decisions. The synod assembly is the appropriate place for that to happen. Synod assemblies should be permitted to pass, by a simple majority, a resolution that would:
a. direct the synodical candidacy committee not to entrance, endorse, or approve for rostering any person in a same-sex relationship,
b. direct the bishop not to sign the attestation of call to any pastor or rostered person in a same-sex relationship.
c. direct the synod staff not to receive the mobility papers of any rostered person in a same-sex relationship.
Without such an action, the acceptance of persons in such relations would be the default policy, but individuals with responsibilities in the candidacy and call process are expected to act out of their own consciences, whether to accept or reject persons in such relations.

2. No congregation or pastor should be expected to register the candidacy of a person in a same-sex relationship if that candidacy violates their conscience.

3. Seminary faculty members would be expected to vote in line with their consciences on the approval of partnered gay or lesbian candidates for ordination or rostering. No one is expected to abstain simply because their conscience is not in line with the Assembly action.

4. Seminary Boards can make a decision not to rent campus housing to gay or lesbian couples. Without such a decision, the default position is that campus housing is open to such students.

I am not a canon or civil lawyer and this alternative is only a suggestion. The details would need to be worked out. If the Report and Recommendations that the Assembly had in its hands are taken seriously, however, something along these lines needs to be on the table.

Michael Root


November 3, 2009

I have been absent from this blog for some time, due to travel and the press of other responsibilities. Unfortunately (?) that situation is likely to continue for a week or so. Thanks to all who have commented on my posts.

David S. Yeago