The ELCA Church Council’s decision to recommend that the 2009 churchwide assembly decide by a simple majority vote whether or not the ELCA should have practicing homosexuals on its rosters has the potential to cause great damage to the ELCA. It is simply good sense to require a two-thirds vote on very important matters. For example, the ELCA constitution and bylaws require two-thirds votes to adopt social statements and approve of full communion agreements.
Bp. Mark Hanson said at a press conference toward the end of the 2007 churchwide assembly that the content of the ELCA’s social statement on sexuality would determine if there were to be changes in the ELCA’s policies for its rosters. However the council’s proposed rule for a simple majority vote separates the recommendations on rostering practicing homosexuals from the social statement on sexuality. If both require a two-thirds vote they will be connected.
Other Christian churches have warned ELCA leaders that if the ELCA decides to approve of homosexual behavior and relationships, then ecumenical relationships with the ELCA will be harmed. It is simply good sense to require a two-thirds vote on a matter that has momentous ecumenical implications.
You still have opportunities to recommend that the rules of procedure for the churchwide assembly require a two-thirds vote on all matters related to the social statement on sexuality. Our partners in Lutheran CORE, the coalition for reform, have provided sample resolutions that can be used for this purpose. One is a resolution for synod councils to use to urge the ELCA Church Council to reverse its vote and recommend a two-thirds rule for the rostering recommendations. The other is a resolution that can be used as a memorial from synod assemblies this spring to urge the churchwide assembly to adopt a two-thirds rule for the rostering recommendations.
It would also be helpful if congregations and individuals would write to ELCA leaders urging them to recommend a two-thirds vote to the church council and to the churchwide assembly. Pr. Paull Spring, chair of the Lutheran CORE steering committee offers these suggestions for letters:
Letters can come from congregations or from church councils - or from individuals as well. They should be addressed to The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631 and to the Rev. Rebecca Larson, Church in Society Unit, the same address as Bishop Hanson's. It would be good to send copies of your letters to your synodical bishop.
We suggest that the letters be respectful, brief and to the point, and without threatening or recriminatory comments. We further suggest as basic points in the letters - that marriage of one man and one woman is the Biblical norm for sexuality; that Biblical standards for human behavior are authoritative over other perspectives (mood of the time, contemporary psychology, etc.); and that the churchwide leadership be urged to do all it can to lift up the Biblical standards for marriage and sexuality in the upcoming discussion over the social statement on sexuality and its recommendations.