Wednesday afternoon: destructive storms

Started by Richard Johnson, August 19, 2009, 05:41:51 PM

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Richard Johnson

Diane Jacobson, professor of OT at Luther Seminary, was introduced to lead Bible study. She is the director of the Book of Faith Initiative, and she spent the first part of the "study" doing an extended commercial for that program. She finally got into a Bible study of the story of the prodigal son. It was interrupted by an announcement that a tornado has touched down in downtown Minneapolis, and that safety officials have asked everyone to remain in the convention hall—not even leaving to get coffee or go to the bathroom. This announcement, along with the accompanying warning sirens, made the continuation of the Bible study a bit dicey, but Dr. Jacobson made a valiant attempt. She invited us to listen to the parable from the various perspectives of the characters in the story—first, the younger son, but then she wondered how we would understand this differently if we called it the "parable of the welcoming father"—a phrase lifted from, or at least originally proposed by, Helmut Thielicke, if memory serves. One might expect her next to turn to the older son, but she took a surprise detour: what does it look like from the point of view of the "silent servant"? That was a surprising turn indeed. The study was accompanied periodically by a hymn (or perhaps song; a bit complex for congregational singing) about the parable, written by Dr. Jacobson's husband, illustrated by some shot of various artistic renditions of the parable. She at last got to the "parable of the bitter older son"—was he able to hear the father's reassurance of his belonging? Are we most like him, privileged, incensed by things "not being fair"? The closing verse of the song:

Dearest Savior,
We, your errant children, wander
Full of pride and slow to learn,
Stumbling in our deepest darkness.
Yet you shine your grace abundant
On the path for our return,
on the path for our return.

At the conclusion of the study, the PB asked everyone again to remain in the hall; the warning has been extended for another quarter hour or so. He then read the 121st Psalm, and prayed for those who might not be in safe places during this storm. The assembly sang "Thy Holy Savior."

The results of the first ballot were received. Carlos Pena didn't quite make it in one ballot; he received 607 votes, and 686 (75%) were required for election on that ballot. Ninety-six others received votes; Dr. Norma Hirsch (member of the church council, and the council representative to the sexuality task force) was the only one with more than 30 (she received 82). Only 11 received more than 4 votes, and the vast majority received only one vote. There were some interesting names on the list, including former MN Governor Al Quie (who is a voting member here), Bob Benne (ethicist, prof. at Roanoke College) also a voting member), and Mark Chavez (director of Lutheran CORE). The second ballot will wait until tomorrow.

The Social Statement on Sexuality then was brought to floor, along with the ad hoc committee that was charged with processing any proposed amendments. The committee worked with amendment proposers to clarify language, etc., and then recommended whether or not to adopt the amendments. (Some amendments it approved, mostly editorial amendments.) There were 13 amendments proposed. The chair of the committee, Pr. Steven Loy, introduced the process.

The first proposed amendment changes a statement saying "this church has taught . . ." to "this church teaches" (which, Pr. Loy said, "we thought might be easy").  Pr. Terri Stagner-collier, the maker of the motion came to the mic, thanking the committee for approving the amendment, but disagreeing that it is "editorial." It is important, she argued, that we acknowledge that the teaching that the "greatest sexual intimacy (such as coitus)" properly belongs in marriage is not just a past teaching, but present teaching of the church. The amendment was approved, 804-184. (The statement is actually a little wishy-washy on this point: This also suggests a way to understand why this church has taught that the greatest sexual intimacies, such as coitus, should be matched with and sheltered both by the highest level of binding commitment and by social and legal protection, such as found in marriage.

Another amendment by Pr. Jeff Thiemann changed "We recognize the complex and varied callings people have in relation to human sexuality" to "We recognize the complex and varied situations people are in." An amendment from the floor asked to change the phrase "are in" to "have." This was approved. There was a bit of debate, with one member pointing out that the section is actually about "vocation," and the subsequent paragraphs continue to speak of "callings." This apparently was not persuasive to the body, which then approved the amendment 556-411.

The committee, on behalf of James Mauney, moved to insert the words which would more closely connect marriage and family. The original paragraph, with the proposed insertion:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have taught and recognized marriage as a normative, lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10: 6–9: "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder." (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23–24.) Marriage thus provides the possibility for the added blessing of children and the joy and responsibility for raising them in the faith.

One member opposed it on the grounds that it sends the wrong message to those who do not have children. Bp. Pyle, Allegheny synod, supported the amendment. Nicole Garcia, the transgender member from Rocky Mountain, opposed it, apparently because not only married couples have children. Not clear how this amendment can be read to suggest there's anything wrong with children whose parents aren't a married couple. Oddly, no one else stepped up to support the amendment, and there were a couple more "against" speeches, one of which felt this sends the wrong message to married couples who cannot have children for one reason or another. Another, Larry Christiansen (SE Iowa) made ridiculous remarks about Mary, mother of the Lord, being unmarried, and no record even of Adam and Eve being married. At last another, Pr. Heidi Punt, spoke up in favor. Pr. Jennifer Czarnota does not belief this amendment tells the truth, because children are not a possibility in her own marriage. Jerry Knocke, DE-MD synod, proposed moved an amendment, that the verbs "have taught and recognized" be changed (as was done in the previous action) to "teach and recognize."

Things were almost derailed when Lowell Wickman moved postponement of consideration of the social statement until after action on the ministry standards. PB ruled that this was not in order at the moment, since we are considering an amendment. It would be in order, he said, once the social statement itself is before us (i.e., after the amendment process is complete). So debate continued.

Pr. Cathy Ammlung (DE-MD) spoke in favor of the amendment because it strengthens the teaching on marriage; she identified herself as a married woman who also cannot have children, but did not believe this kind of language is offensive. Children, she said, come in many ways, but to try to deal with all the permutations simply muddies the waters. Pr. Carla Thompson Powell (Metro Chicago) identified herself as a married woman who cannot have children (though she has adopted children) did find it offensive. Seems to come down always to feelings and personal situations, doesn't it? For some, it is difficult to distinguish between their own situation and what the teaching of the church should be. Pr. Paul Koch argued in favor because the amendment simply recognizes that there is a God-given connection between marriage and children—not that all marriages will produce children, to be sure, but that this possibility is built into the structure of marriage. Pr. Katrina Foster (Metro NY) spoke against, citing another personal story about her great-grandfather who remarried in his 80s, and her mother, who was unable to have children (she is adopted). "Not all people marry to have children; not everyone who has children is married. This is an attempted end run about decisions we will make later." Pr. Marshall Hahn (NE Iowa) spoke in favor, urging that voting members actually read the amendment which does not diminish any married couple unable or not desiring to produce children. Pr. David Rossow SE MN opposed the amendment because it undercuts the statement's argument that the primary context for marriage is trust (i.e., not children).

After this extensive debate, the amendment was defeated 432-563. This is perhaps the clearest harbinger of what is to come at this assembly, with this reluctance to make a stronger statement about marriage and family, in spite of the ad hoc committee's recommendation that the proposed amendment "strengthens and bridges the issues of marriage, family, and the responsibilities of parenting." Stories and feelings once again trump doctrine.

The next amendment came from Bp. Kurt Kusserow, SW PA:

It must be noted that some, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships. The proposed amendment would change this to Recognizing that this conclusion differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, some people though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships.

On this there was no speaking other than that of Bp. Kusserow. The amendment was approved 677-276.

The committee then noted that the rest of the amendments not be adopted. What happens here is that if anyone wants still to bring these amendments to the floor, they must do so individually. Pr. Michael Johnson (ND) moved an amendment (this one prepared by Lutheran CORE) that would insert into the section on homosexuality certain language from statements of the predecessor church bodies, such as the ALC language that homosexuality "is viewed biblically as a departure from the heterosexual structure of God's creation."   

Pr. Sue Sprowls, SE MI, opposed this, apparently because she doesn't want us to debate sexuality any more but get on to more important things, and stop giving lip service to those who cry for justice. Pr. Mike Toomey, E ND) agreed, but said that if we must debate social statements, this amendment more clearly reflects a biblical lens. A voting member requested a couple of minutes to read the amendment (which is rather lengthy, and members had been asked not to be reading the material during the Bible study). The BP offered three minutes to do so.  During the recess, word circulated in the press section that the tornado had damaged the top of Central Lutheran Church, which is practically next door to the convention center.

Discussion continued on the amendment inserting language from previous church bodies. Bp. Graham from Metro DC cited a "Reformation era document" that says that change is wrong excerpt in certain clearly defined situations. Then, of course, he admitted that it came from the Confutation to the Augsburg Confession (the Roman Catholic refutation of the Lutherans). We should reject this amendment and those like it, or we are not acting like Lutherans. Pr. Steven Forck, W IA, spoke in favor of the amendment. The ad hoc committee recommended a no vote because it "implies a consensus that no longer exists"; but that's what we're here to find out. Further, because some change is beneficial, that doesn't imply that all change is beneficial. Nothing has yet been brought forward that suggests this change is necessary. Rebecca Larson from the task force made a "clarifying comment": The first part of the social statement is prescriptive, but when it comes to the discussion of homosexuality, it is descriptive, arguing that the consensus actually no longer exists, and it then lays out four different ways that people in "this church" currently understand homosexuality. So the ad hoc committee's recommendation against it, reflects this.

John England, Rocky Mtn., wearing a rainbow scarf (I thought in previous assemblies that kind of politicking was discouraged?) spoke in opposition. The amendment distinguishes between orientation and expression, but where is love? Why are we making this kind of distinction?

Pr. Ryan Mills N. Tex/La, "a forgiven sinner." We are a book of faith church; God's word always comes as law and gospel. Our foremothers and forefathers knew what they were doing when they admitted that all our sexuality is broken by sin, that we are all forgiven. Most of our parishes were founded by the ALC or LCA, and we should continue in this teaching which rightly gives us Christ himself. Allison Guttu, Metro NY. These statements are based on material from the 1970s and 80s, and our task is to speak from today. This amendment breaks faith with that process, and with the GLBT community in our church. The adoption of this amendment would likely lead to the whole statement not being adopted.  Karl Moyer (Lower Susquehanna) God made our bodies so that male and female "fit together." To suggest otherwise is bad stewardship of what God has given.

There was a motion calling the previous question on "all matters before the house." PB noted that the effect of this would bring house to vote on this amendment, and then immediately on the social statement (thus cutting off all further amendments). This predictably led to a considerable (mostly inappropriate, since the motion was not debatable) discussion. The motion to cease debate on all matters before the house was defeated, 449-554.

At this point, for reasons not quite clear, the PB decided to test the body about whether they wanted to postpone debate until after the ministry standards are decided (the motion made and ruled out of order earlier). Then after consultation he decided it was still out of order; the maker of that motion (how did he get back to the floor?), asked if he wanted to challenge the ruling of the chair, replied "No way." "Grace does abound," Hanson quipped.

Back to the amendment, Guy Irwin, SW CA, opposed the amendment because it undercuts the nuance of the statement as a whole. Luther was the "greatest sexual revolutionary" in Christian history (because of his challenge to celibacy). Lutherans offer Christian realism; to some this is apparently still a scandal. And with that, it was necessary to move to the orders of the day for the college corporation meetings. (Some of the Lutheran colleges have designated that the CWA would be their legal corporation, and so the CWA has to take certain legal actions relative to those colleges.) 

The PB announced that a tornado had touched down on the roof of part of the convention center; the steeple of Central Lutheran damaged; the tent at Central Lutheran was blown down, and event to be held there will be either cancelled or moved inside—a "pub" in the tent will be closed tonight, to which, PB said, my mother who was a staunch member of the WTCU would say "praise God." No one was hurt in either building.)

And now I'll step out and post this instead of listening to the college corporation meeting.












The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Kurt Weinelt

I fear the storm inside will prove to be far more destructive than the one outside..... :'(
Kurt
"Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in OUR lives is the ultimate." David McCullough

ThePhantom

 A tornado hits the convention center.  It damages the "church next door" that supports the coming change.  All this happens in close proximity to ELCA Lutherans who were unable to bring themselves to strengthen the document's support for marriage and family.  Laugh if you will, I wonder if God the Father is sending a message... yes, really I do ...

Pr. Jerry Kliner

#3
After reading this debate, all I can say is one thing...
Lord have mercy!

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Pr. Jerry Kliner

Come on now...  Let's not start trying to determine God's will from the weather.  The Lord sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Jakozak



This will prove to be *the* defining moment in the history of the ELCA.  The media will pick it up.  The rest of the churches will pick it up.    A church body gathers to vote on overturning God's Word on sexuality, and a tornado strikes.  Coincidence? 


Rev. Jack Kozak
Akron, Ohio

Team Hesse

Quote from: Pr. Jerry Kliner on August 19, 2009, 06:07:53 PM
Come on now...  Let's not start trying to determine God's will from the weather.  The Lord sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

In 2005 in Orlando when we were discussing the sexuality recommendations, a major thunderstorm developed.  The black representatives from the churches in Africa were quaking in their boots in true fear that the Lord was not happy with what the ELCA was considering.  Jaynan, president of WordAlone, was seated in the area with them and saw this first hand and had to chuckle.  I wonder what the African representatives thought today ...
Coincidence?  One has to wonder.
Lou

Scott6

Well, I was planning on visiting during Friday's session, but now perhaps the webcast may be the way to go.  Yup.  Might stick with that.  :o

Dave Benke

Bp. Pyle served with me for three years on the Lutheran Services in America Board, and I am grateful to him for his continued perseverance in this assembly as I've read the ongoing activities.  His witness is strong and clear, just as it was on the LSA board.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

Dadoo

Quote from: Pr. Jerry Kliner on August 19, 2009, 06:07:53 PM
Come on now...  Let's not start trying to determine God's will from the weather.  The Lord sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

YesIknowbut . . .

My sweetheart, who is a voting member, called to tell me she was alright and told me that the steeple at Central had bitten it. My first words where, I just could not resist: "Isn't that where the Goodsoil Eucharist is happening tonight?"

Gofigure . . .
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Mike1in3

I dunno, I don't like the whole "God smote them," line of thinking. Others may say, "The devil tried to stop us with a tornado, but we shall overcome." I'd rather let the weather be the weather and prevail on the basis of God's Word and sound reason.

Timotheos

Really almost surreal....01%!!?

Pr. Timothy Winterstein

ddrebes

Quote
The committee, on behalf of James Mauney, moved to insert the words which would more closely connect marriage and family. The original paragraph, with the proposed insertion:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have taught and recognized marriage as a normative, lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10: 6–9: "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder." (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23–24.) Marriage thus provides the possibility for the added blessing of children and the joy and responsibility for raising them in the faith.

I was terribly disappointed that pointing out a blessing that comes from many (most?) marriages was seen as a put-down against those who don't have that blessing.  How can we praise anything or anyone if it's immediately seen as a slight against others?

And what really got me was what I perceived as slights against my Bishop.  I recall someone implying that he introduced this as an "end run" around the social statement.

Watching on the webcam, I couldn't see the text of the amendment.  I heard it read, and liked it.  Then when people started talking about how terrible it was, I couldn't take a second look to see what they meant.  Thanks for posting these reports so I could see what everyone was so upset about (nothing).

Iowegian

#13
QuoteMarriage thus provides the possibility for the added blessing of children and the joy and responsibility for raising them in the faith.

One member opposed it on the grounds that it sends the wrong message to those who do not have children. Bp. Pyle, Allegheny synod, supported the amendment. Nicole Garcia, the transgender member from Rocky Mountain, opposed it, apparently because not only married couples have children. Not clear how this amendment can be read to suggest there's anything wrong with children whose parents aren't a married couple.

This was the part of the debate I found most unnerving:  there was a very distinct feeling here that "children" have been, well, de-emphasized in favor of something else.  Self-affirmation seems to trump even the future of the community itself.

(I was musing about how well the Shakers did with some of the discussion around the amendment.)

//Oh, also have to note that I appreciated Pr. Marshall Hahn's statement and Pr. Jeff Ruby's bold move to call a question.  ;-)

Dadoo

Quote from: Chad Thompson on August 19, 2009, 09:45:41 PM
QuoteMarriage thus provides the possibility for the added blessing of children and the joy and responsibility for raising them in the faith.

One member opposed it on the grounds that it sends the wrong message to those who do not have children. Bp. Pyle, Allegheny synod, supported the amendment. Nicole Garcia, the transgender member from Rocky Mountain, opposed it, apparently because not only married couples have children. Not clear how this amendment can be read to suggest there's anything wrong with children whose parents aren't a married couple.

This was the part of the debate I found most unnerving:  there was a very distinct feeling here that "children" have been, well, de-emphasized in favor of something else.  Self-affirmation seems to trump even the future of the community itself.

(I was musing about how well the Shakers did with some of the discussion around the amendment.)

I thought that the opposition to the marriage and children connection was troubling as well. I read that one speaker was offended by an amendment that would have made that connection because she cannot have children. I fell sorry for the pain that she feels. But by that line of reasoning all of us should take to wheel chairs since our constant, obnoxious ability to walk, an ability we flaunt all day, offends those who have no use of their legs.
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

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