In my last article, “At the CROSSroads,” I reported about three resolutions that my church, St. Paul Lutheran, New Braunfels, Texas, had submitted to the May gathering of the Southwestern Texas Synod Assembly. A report on the final disposition of our resolutions follows.
The first resolved that all constitutional amendments, ecumenical agreements or ministry standards be submitted back to every individual congregation for a final vote. It passed with an amendment by the reference and council committee: resolve that the ELCA Church Council consider amending the ELCA Constitution to require that any amendment to the constitution regarding ecumenical agreements or changes in ministry standards must be ratified by a “yes” vote of a simple majority of the total number of ELCA congregations within one year of a churchwide assembly’s action to amend the constitution. This resolution passed by an overwhelming majority and an official vote count was not taken.
The second resolution called on the synod to communicate to The Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) its “deepest regret and concern” with regard to its consecration of a non-celibate homosexual person as bishop. In addition it called for the suspension of Called to Common Mission (CCM, the full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church) until these contradictions to Scripture, Lutheran teachings and current ministry standards as detailed in Vision and Expectations are resolved. The reference and council committee recommended that the resolution be referred to the ELCA Church Council for consideration and possible action. However, the assembly voted to adopt the original resolution but deleted the section calling for suspension of CCM.
Resolution number three required that the synod affirm that sexual intercourse is a gift from God reserved for a man and a woman within the bonds of matrimony. This resolution received the most debate on the assembly floor, but passed with a vote of 191 to 178.
There were four other resolutions submitted concerning issues of homosexuality, the blessing of same sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate persons who are homosexual. The reference and council committee combined these into a single resolution calling for continuing study in Journey Together Faithfully Part 2. It also directed the responses be sent to the ELCA task force on Sexuality Studies. Ultimately, this resolution passed, but only after an original resolution failed by a vote of 224 to 130. The original resolution was opposed to the ordination, consecration and commissioning of practicing (i.e. non-celibate) homosexuals and called for Presiding Bishop Hanson, other elected officials, congregations and synods to take a public stand on the issue. The blessing of same sex unions was opposed by the resolution as well.
I left our synod assembly with mixed emotions. We made some progress with governance. I think that governance should start with the priesthood of all believers and flow through to congregations, synods and the churchwide assembly. I think the passage of the first resolution is a step in the right direction. However, I was disappointed that the fourth substitute amendment did not pass. The level of opposition to the third amendment was dismaying, to say the least. As I listened to many of the floor speakers, I couldn’t help but wonder why and how Lutherans could allow the jettisoning of the authority of Scripture within the Southwestern synod. It is disturbing to see some of our number turn their backs of the Word of God and instead kneel at the altar of politically correct social engineering.