Synod Assembly was a good time. Lots of schmoozing with fun pastor-types, some reunions with classmates and a few seminary grads, some irreverent humor in the backrow, some really good food, a little joking around with the Bishop, and a lot of making fun of the typos in the song lyrics in the Power Point slideshow. One of the main topics discussed at the assembly was the ELCA's Taskforce on Sexuality's recommendations concerning people in same sex relationships and the church's response. There are three recommendations, the first was that regardless of what happens and what decisions are made, that the ELCA continue to strive for unity, and promise to work together despite the wide variety of opinions regarding the matter of homosexuality. The second recommendation was that the church still define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but allow congregations some leeway in determining the best way to minister to same sex relationships, leaving the door open for the blessing of these relationships. The third recommendation is that the church still adhere to the policy that people in same sex relationships are not allowed to be ordained/consecrated/commisioned, but to allow for more effective ministry to the gay and lesbian community, that there be an allowance for some exceptions without any disciplinary actions, which is left up to the Bishop of the synod.
Now there are many reasons to disagree or agree with these recommendations. You could disagree because you think they go to far, or you might think that they don't go far enough and create a second class citizenship. You could agree with them because you think they are at least a step in the right direction, or because it still upholds everything that we have previously professed but allows some leeway for congregations to determine what is the best way to minister to their own people.
I tend to agree with them because they are steps in the right direction. They are better than what we have now, I think. Sure, they're not perfect, they might not give gay and lesbian people all the rights and privileges that they were hoping for, and deserve, but at least they finally seem to be getting some. I think most of the people in this synod agreed with that, and this is why I'm really beginning to love this synod, and they approved of all three recommendations. The first two passed with a large majority, the third passed by a much, much smaller margin. The Taskforce also released two different positions, which add some clarity to the third recommendation, which gives more of an idea of why people did not approve it. The first position was that homosexuality is sinful and "any church policy that seems to approve of such behavior is a betrayal of the authority of Scripture and an ignoring of the natural order." The second position sees homosexuality as a condition, not a choice, and that scripture that supposedly speaks out against homosexuality is really speaking out against behaviors that are abusive or God-denying, which can include some homosexual acts but can also include MANY heterosexual acts, and that there are "growing numbers of congregations ministering to gay and lesbian persons whose mission might both accept and be enriched by gay and lesbian pastors and rostered leaders." 146 persons agreed with position one, while 229 disagreed. 259 agreed with position 2, while 152 disagreed. It made me happy to sit there and think that I was amongst a majority of people who were able to recognized the gifts that God has given to our GLBT brothers and sisters, and the ministry they can offer.
I was sad when we left Synod Assembly early, to get back in time for our Saturday evening worship service, because we left right before one of the things I had wanted to see. During the Synod assembly they have a Synod Youth Assembly. They were getting up to share their report right as we had to leave. I was sad to miss it.
But then we got home and went through worship and then I got to go to a reception for a young man who just graduated from West Point Academy. It would be an understatement to say that his parents are proud of him. They are also one of my favorite families at church because they are all absolutely some of the nicest people I've met, and they have a hot tub. So time with them is always fun.
Then, Sunday I was sitting at my desk when Supervising walks in to my office and puts a little piece of paper down on my desk. It's an obituary. I don't recognize the name, but I read over it just in case it might be a member or relative of a member. I get to the end and have no clue why he has given it to me when he says, "It doesn't say it, but the funeral will be officiated by Pastor Intern Mark." My brow furrowed. I was pissed off. I couldn't believe that he was shoving this funeral on me because he didn't want to do it. And with only 2 days notice. I grumbled and stomped around getting ready for worship that morning. Angry that I was being inconvenienced.
But then, suddenly, a thought hit me. Someone needs to speak words of grace and salvation to that family. Someone needs to assure them that their wife/mother/grandmother is indeed in the loving arms of God. And why not me? Why shouldn't I be the one to proclaim this good news to these grieving people? Why shouldn't I see it as a privilege and honor rather than an inconvenience and a chore?
So I'm trying. God, give me the grace and ability.