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Analysis......One synod questions unity, one gay blessings

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

August 2005

Memorials from synods to the Aug. 8-14 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando show they supported unity in spite of serious disagreements and sent a mixed response on blessing of same-sex relationships, while opposing a proposal to ordain homosexuals in same-sex relationships.

These findings are based upon reviews of synod assembly news on the WordAlone and the Good Soil web sites as well as memorials on the ELCA site. (Good Soil is a collaboration of several pro-homosexual agenda Lutheran organizations and Soulforce, an interfaith group.)

Unity, blessing of same-sex relationships (based on a 1993 Conference of Bishops' statement) and ordination of persons in such relationships (through a process of granting exceptions to ELCA policies) are recommendations made to the churchwide assembly by the ELCA Church Council.

Though unity (at the cost of truth) and blessing garnered support, it appears that a single resolution from one synod, in the case of each topic, illuminated some smoke and mirrors. The West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod voted for "amicable dissolution" of the ELCA and asserts that differences over homosexuality are church dividing. Several theologians and church leaders also have disputed the assertion that the ELCA can be unified in the face of disagreements over Biblical authority.

The Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod wisely requested clarification of the 1993 Conference of Bishops' statement on blessings. Many persons see only the part where the bishops say that there is not basis for an official ceremony for blessing same-sex relationships in the Bible or tradition. They do not know that the church council and others interpret the best ways to provide pastoral care to gays and lesbians as approval to bless relationships.

Raw calculations indicated that 32 synods favored unity while three voted against the recommendation; 46 synods were in favor of the recommendation on blessing same-sex relationships or of the 1993 bishops' statement, while 11 voted against.

On ordaining pastors in same-sex relation-ships, 19 memorials said yes and 13 said no. However the outlook changed with the addition of other resolutions on this question. Seven called for removing all barriers to blessing relationships or ordaining homosexuals, 13 requested discipline in cases of ordaining non-celibate homosexuals and 17 were for maintaining present policies against ordaining non-celibate homosexuals.

The number of memorials in opposition rose to 38. But the number favoring such ordinations grew to 26. However, some synods may have voted on more than one resolution on the same topic or in more than one year leading to some confusion in totals.

Four synods asked for a delay in voting on homosexuality questions until a social statement on human sexuality is finished, some said delay until 2009.

A few synods passed other memorials that include rescinding Called to Common Mission, calling for ratification by churches or synods of certain actions by the churchwide assembly and increasing the church council to four officers plus 65 members elected by their synods.