ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 15, 2009
Service of Reconciliation Marks ELCA Decisions on Same-Gender Relationships
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A Saturday afternoon "Service of Reconciliation" drew about 150 people to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Charlotte, N.C. The special Sept. 12 worship brought together those who welcomed and those who were troubled by recent decisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Voting members at the August 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis approved a series of proposals to change the denomination's ministry policies, including a policy to allow Lutherans in lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
The Rev. Nancy Kraft, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, called the service "glorious." Those in attendance were Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish and Buddhist, she said. "There were some people who were thrilled with what the ELCA has done and other people who aren't so sure about this," she said. "They came, so I thought that was wonderful."
"This is a historic time for our church," Kraft said, and the "radical inclusion" that the ELCA adopted includes those previously excluded and those who disagree.
"It was reconciliation in a lot of different ways, not just where we are right now as a church with people who stand on both sides of an issue but also for people who have in the past felt shut out," she said. "People are hurting in a number of different ways right now."
L.D. Shockley, a bottling company employee and member of Advent Lutheran Church, Charlotte, said upbeat hymns and the sermon of the Rev. Richard C. Little, retired pastor of Advent Lutheran Church, set the tone for reconciliation.
"There's been a lot of information in the news recently about this (decision) causing a fracture, but the way it was presented Saturday was that this was an opportunity for the church -- the whole church -- to come together," Shockley said.
After the service, several worshipers gathered in the church's social hall for coffee and dessert. Shockley said he was impressed by a man from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"He felt comfortable enough to stand up and say, 'My views are different, and yet we can worship together here today,'" Shockley said. "I thought that was very affirming."
Kraft said several members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church are gay or lesbian, and the congregation began planning the Service of Reconciliation in July. "We knew that whichever way the voting went, those who had a lot invested in the outcome on either side were going to have some strong reactions," she said.
"It was an important time for us to gather around the Lord's Table together, to focus on all that unites us rather than what divides us."
Kraft attended the assembly as an observer. She said the importance of reconciliation was evident there, when debate on the ministry policies was interrupted every 20 minutes for prayer.
"Sometimes you were in a small group, praying with people, and you had no idea where they were, how they stood on this, but it didn't matter. We're praying about this," Kraft said.
Information about Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is at http://www.htlccharlotte.org/HTLC/Home.html on the Web.
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John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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