Churchwide Coming Up!

Forty hours to lift-off, and counting. Literally. The plane carrying part of our 9 member volunteer delegation to the Churchwide Assembly (including me) leaves Intercontinental at 8 am on Monday morning.

We'll be blogging daily, at least, while we're at this assembly so that you can keep up to date regularly with what's going on -- from our perspective. There's also a lot of great general information at (pictures, videos, news releases, and staff blogs), but this report is unique to Grace and the work we'll be doing with the LGBT lobbying group Goodsoil to hopefully bring about change in the church on sexuality policy.

Just as background: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, our national church organization) was tasked by the 2001 Assembly to research and produce a comprehensive position paper/teaching document on human sexuality for consideration and adoption by 2003. Eight years and multiple drafts (and three studies) later, we finally have a completed paper for consideration. You can read and download a copy of the full proposed paper at , or a summary of it at

The study is very sympathetic to LGBT peoples and families, and opened up the language surrounding the area of marriage by stating, "The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman." This language leaves room for change, and is very encouraging. It could have been left as it was in an earlier draft, which stated rather categorically that marriage was only between a man and a woman.

Overall, the sexuality statement is considered by Goodsoil to be a positive step forward, so we will be working for passage (maybe with some attempted revisions from the floor). Passage is generally expected. We'll keep you posted.

In addition to the proposed sexuality statement, the Sexuality Task Force also made recommendations to change ministry policies in the church. Currently, there is a policy which denies the pastorate to LGBT persons who refuse to remain celibate. If a previously celibate LGBT pastor enters into a relationship -- even a monogamous, covenanted, permanent one -- he or she can be removed from the pulpit at the discretion of the local bishop. The Task Force recommendations on ministry policy (which can be found in their entirety at or in summary at are that LGBT persons be allowed to serve, even if they are in a relationship. This recommendation is going to be a tougher hurdle to pass than the statement, although a small majority of the area synods have sent resolutions forward to the national assembly asking for acceptance of the policy change. The trick is that the voting members are not required to vote according to the wishes of their synod. Even if a synod sent a positive resolution, that is not binding on the church as a whole, or on the individual voting member. Anything can happen in a floor vote. It is this issue of policy change that we -- Goodsoil and its volunteers -- will be paying particular attention to.

There are, of course, other much less controversial pieces of business before the assembly, which functions as the highest-level decsion-making body in the church. The ELCA does a lot of good work, both domestically and overseas. Among the agenda items are the new budget, HIV/AIDS strategy, a malaria initiative, Middle East strategy, and full communion with the United Methodist Church. We will be reporting on this business, as well, as we celebrate what it means to be church together: to be Christ to the world.

In addition, there is a lot of spiritual sustenance and even fun to be had at Churchwide -- especially if you hang out with Goodsoil people. We'll be having a massive Goodsoil worship service, as well as a healing service (which, as done by Goodsoil, is a mighty powerful experience -- take it from me). We'll also be having a party somewhere in the midst of all this, too. You won't miss a thing if you read here every day!

Please keep our delegation (Pastor Lura, Barbara Carroll, April Wackenreuter, Robert Wittliff, Chris Busby, Bridget Jensen, Hal Core, Steve Walker, and me) in your earnest prayers over this next week. Also hold up all of the Goodsoil volunteers, and the assembly leaders and voting members, that the Holy Spirit will always be present to us in our work in Minneapolis, and that we come together to accomplish God's will in the world.

Laura B

Tomorrow: What we'll be up to, exactly, in Minneapolis.

1 comment:

  1. God Bless You All and you are all in my heart!
    Laura T.