Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Assembly - Day 3

The Rush of a Mighty Wind and a Squeaker

I met a friend for lunch today, and as I was making my way through the maze of the Minneapolis Skyway system back toward the Convention center, I noticed that a hard rain was pounding outside. Arriving at the convention center, I learned that there had been a tornado and the warning was still in effect. Everyone in the building had been evacuated to the large plenary meeting hall. As it turns out, friends who witnessed the whole thing told me that they actually could see the tornado touch down, right across the street from the Convention Center, at Central Lutheran Church. The funnel cloud landed on the church for about 30 seconds and then it went back up again. The outdoor cafe that Central set up for assembly visitors was gone. Tables blew up onto the roof of the convention center and they still haven't found the chairs. Trees were uprooted, debris everywhere, and worst of all, the cross on the spire was bent completely over. This was to be the site for the Goodsoil worship service that night. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the church was in good enough shape for our worship to go on as planned.

What an absolutley glorious experience our worship was. I wish that all of my Holy Trinity family could have been with us. When the congregation sang "Give Me Jesus" I was so moved by the voices that I completely lost my own. Barbara Lundblad preached and was magnificent. Ironically, the text chosen for the night was the story of the storm at sea. As she read the gospel and got to the words describing the wind that arose, she paused and the congregation roared, then she looked up and said, "Really. That's what it says here." A perfect text for the occasion, on many levels. It was also the perfect way to end an amazing day.

The discussion of the Human Sexuality Statement seemed to drag on and on today, with one proposed amendment after another, and it seemed like we would never get through it. I was wondering if they would still be nitpicking this up until Sunday. Then something seemed to change among the voting members. It was like they said, we've had enough of this, and they made a motion to limit the time spent debating each proposed amendment. Then, someone moved that all the amendments be rejected and they proceeded to move on to consider the statement itself. Suddenly, they were voting on the proposed social statement.

I was sitting in Goodsoil Central with a large group of volunteers who were watching it all on a monitor. (This is a much more enjoyable way of watching the proceedings as you are free to make comments!) When we realized that the proposal was actually coming to a vote TODAY, we were in shock. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. All eyes were glued to the screen and we were holding our collective breath. They posted the vote total on the screen and at first we couldn't figure out if it had passed or not. (The voting is electronic and it's always reported with a bar graph showing the percentages.) This particular vote required a 2/3 majority and the tally was 66 point some fraction of a percent in favor. We're all looking at each other asking, "Is that 2/3? Is that 2/3?" (Where are all the math majors when you need them?) Then Bishop Hanson announced that it passed. The whole room filled with Goodsoil volunteers erupted. We cried, we jumped up and down, we hugged one another. You would have thought that our team just won the superbowl. It was unbelievable. Just three short years ago, the assembly was in such a completely different place. Is this the same ELCA?

So maybe it was just a tornado that happened to strike the Lutheran church across the street, the church that was hosting our Goodsoil worship that night. Or maybe it was like the rush of a mighty wind on the Day of Pentecost, because after we were all sequestered in the meeting room because of the tornado, the direction of the conversation that seemed so stuck seemed to come together. Not too long after that, when we did our little happy dance, celebrating the passage of a statement of our church that includes and affirms the experience of people in same gender relationships for the first time in our history, we looked outside... and the sun was shining.

It was a good day to be Lutheran!

No comments: