We’re off and running at our ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis. I had the opportunity to meet friends at Goodsoil Central this afternoon. During our training session on “Graceful Engagement”, I learned that this CWA is different from any in prior years because this time the churchwide office is actually asking Goodsoil to help them accomplish the work of the church. In the past, Goodsoil has been in the role of advocating change in our church by standing against the policies of our ELCA. This time, what’s being proposed by our ELCA Church Council to the Churchwide Assembly is a life-giving step for our church that Goodsoil supports. It puts us in a different position than we have known in the past. Nonetheless, it’s not a slam-dunk. We are doing all we can to support the recommendations of the Church Council regarding Ministry Policies that have excluded gay and lesbian leaders in committed relationships from serving in our church. There are over 150 volunteers working with Goodsoil, who have come from all over the country to serve at this historic assembly. The spirit of the volunteers is positive and prayerful.
During the first plenary session of the Assembly, the rules of procedure were established for the assembly. I know that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but actually there was a movement to require a 2/3 vote on all recommendations for ministry policies. This is contrary to the existing rules and an obvious attempt to block any change. The reasoning for this is that such a radical change in our policy would be so damaging to the church that a supermajority would be less divisive. Of course, for people on the other side (including moi), this would mean that instead of a simple majority deciding how the church will act, our future could be determined by 1/3 of the voting members plus 1. If this 2/3 requirement passed it would mean that the ministry recommendations don’t stand much a chance of passing. The assembly did not approve the change, so we have overcome this first hurdle, but it was not without considerable debate that went on and on and on. Tension is high on the assembly floor and it's only night one.
The highlight of the day was the sermon Bishop Hanson preached at the opening worship for the Assembly this afternoon. Preaching on the story of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples in the upper room, he talked about the fear that drove them inward, something we could all identify with. Bishop Hanson reminded us that for the first disciples, even in the midst of their fears, Jesus showed up, and he promises us that he will continue to show up for us today. As we gathered around Word and Sacrament this afternoon, Jesus was present. We have the assurance that he’ll be with us this week.