What Does This Mean?
Providing clarity on ELCA actions taken by 2009 Churchwide Assembly
"What does all this mean?"
"Where do we go from here?"
"What will happen now?"
These are just a few of the questions generated by the adoption of the human sexuality social statement and revisions of ministry policies. Division, liberation, fear and joy are all responses that members of this church are experiencing. But as emotions settle, what impact do these votes have in ELCA congregations?
The Rev. Kenneth Kimball, a 2009 Churchwide Assembly voting member from Waterville, Iowa, said taking the decisions of the assembly to his congregation will involve "avoiding knee-jerk reactions" to the disbelief and hurt felt while remaining committed to “making plans not alone, but in conversation with colleagues and allies.”
Returning home following the assembly, the Rev. Lois Pete of Oakland, Calif., said, “There will be some grief that needs to be spoken to, but we must be open to change that comes with grief.” Rejoicing will also take place as the congregation celebrates “joyfully with committed gay couples living out their relationships in God.”
Even though their congregations hold differing opinions, Pastors Kimball and Pete acknowledge that local ministries and missions will continue on.
This sentiment rings true for many who will experience few immediate ramifications of the assembly’s actions on these topics. The Rev. Bill Moldwin of Deckerville, Mich., states, “Unless an issue is created by a pastor or lay leader, for the majority of congregations the decision will not alter life together on local levels.”
Congregations have been engaging and living out their views on the issues for years, and the documents’ passage allows congregations to continue to do so. Pastor Moldwin concludes, "Pastors need to guide congregations, to show that the rubric we created is not a ‘shall’ but a ‘may’ for the actions passed."
Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson called congregations to be the arms of the church -- to embrace those who are rejoicing and those who are lamenting. "We meet one another finally -- not in our agreements or our disagreements -- but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ."
Next: What does it mean to be faithful?