Departure Thoughts

We leave today in confidence and honest celebration.

Last night at the Goodsoil Celebration, Lutherans Concerned Executive Director Emily Eastwood told us that she had spoken to the Bishop and that he had said, when asked, that not only should we celebrate, we were commanded to celebrate! Not that the time of empathy and concern for others is over, but it has been a long, long road for the Lutheran LGBT community, and we have worked hard -- not just this week, but for 8 years and even longer. We have won the right to celebrate the arrival of our community into the life of the church. It is sweet, even as it is bittersweet. Yes, it is sweet.

And so we celebrated. We listened to a great band playing traditional hymns (including A Mighty Fortress) in a folksy rock style, we danced, we talked, we laughed, we cried a little more, and in good Lutheran fashion, we ate. It was good.


I don't think I've mentioned yet -- we wore colorful shawls all week -- knitted and crocheted by loving, supportive Lutheran hands all over the country. We were wrapped in their prayers as we did our work, and we were invited to take them home after our work was done here. I took two. The one I used for my own work and prayer, and the one I used in support of Goodsoil on the assembly floor. I also haven't mentioned this -- the Goodsoil Legislative Team had a signaling system for allied voting members so that they could navigate the complex voting procedures of amendments to amendments to the main motion and such. Some of the motions might have seemd friendly on the surface but were actually presented by our opponents to dilute or undermine the goal of full inclusion. So, at the direction of the floor leaders, several of us would stand on either side of the visitors section at the back in either a red shawl, which signaled a No vote, or in a yellow shawl, which signaled Yes. I volunteered to be one of the signalers, and it was a privilege to be able to make such a concrete contribution to the proceedings.

At any rate, I'm taking my yellow shawl home as a remembrance of the small part I played in bringing this historic legislation to pass. Every time I look at it, I will think, Yes! We did it! We are all now full participants in the life of the church! Praise God! I think I'll wear it to church for a few weeks, and then on the anniversary of this week each year, so if you see me in bright yellow, you'll know why.

Be prepared, though. Our work of this week is not done. We at Grace will continue to play an active role in the necessary healing and reconciliation process for the church. We talked last night about what we can do. The most agreeable idea was to visit other churches in Houston, starting with congregations where we know there is a contingent of quiet supporters alongside opponents, in order to witness quietly to God's grace and welcome, to pray for change and healing at the local level, and to participate in graceful engagement with anyone who will talk with us.

The process will be slow and painstaking, but we at Grace have been called, through our charter as a Reconciling in Christ church, to be agents of reconciliation to all people. If you are interested in participating with us in this work, talk to me or to Pastor when we get back, and we'll put you on the list. We'll even offer some graceful engagement training of our own, if you'd like.


We went out as a full group (minus Hal) last night to celebrate together. We went to a fun British pub on Nicollet Mall, the restaurant strip in downtown Minneapolis. While there, I had a marvelous conversation with a young French tourist who was curious about the Lutheran proceedings. Very well-educated and discerning, a real thinker, he was raised in a very strict and unforgiving religious environment in Paris, and now questions the existence of a gracious God or a loving, inclusive church, at all. It was an honor to be able to tell him about the ELCA -- not just about our recent changes, but about our (by and large) progressive understanding of Scripture as evidence of a God who has loved the creation passionaltely throughout history. He wondered why I needed church when it is possible to love the neighbor even as a secular humanist. I told him that, for me, it is because the music, the ritual, and the community feed me. He could appreciate that. Then he asked me about all of the damage that has been and continues to be done in the name of organized religion. Again, I was able to tell him about God's over-arching grace, and how some of us in religious communities do our best to be that grace to the world, without judgment and self-righteousness. I admitted that, yes, there has been and continues to be a lot of damage done, but that I believe that even more good has been done in the name of Christ than not.

I was keeping the rest of the group waiting, so I had to reluctantly take my leave, but I praised God as I walked back in to them that I had been given the opportunity to witness in such a significant way, and that I had been given the words to speak. Most of all, though, I thanked God that I could present my church in such a positive and grace-full light. What a blessing the church is to me! And what a blessing it can and should be to the world, as well. It's up to us to get the word out. I'm glad that we're doing so well at Grace. It will be good to get home.

Laura B

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