Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Happens Next?

Now that we have approved our new constitutional amendments, all is well with the world and we will finally be safe from the clutches of the ELCA after the ratification vote on the 31st, right? Well, for the short term, SOTH should be protected from the resolutions passed by the ELCA National Assembly last August. The new standards for clergy and congregations will become ELCA policy in April. This will bring changes to the model constitution of the ELCA, changes that SOTH will eventually be required to incorporate into our constitution as long as we remain an ELCA congregation.

So, while Pastor remains at SOTH, our constitutional amendments should cover us for the near future, but we should not become complacent.
If Pastor would leave SOTH, we could very well become a test case for discrimination should we exercise our "bound conscience", in accepting only pastoral candidates that abide by the 1990 ELCA standards for human sexuality. While our "bound conscience" would be acceptable to the ELCA, it may not be acceptble to the secular world. Invoking our "bound conscience" and rejecting a pastoral candidate that was not in conformity with the ELCA's 1990 standards, could open SOTH to a discrimination complaint. By having a constitution that conflicts with the ELCA's model, the liability likely will fall on SOTH, and not the ELCA. So, while we are covered for now, there are still many questions to be answered down the road.

Lutheran Core believes that the ELCA will likely ignore most constitutional amendments. Lutheran Core's constitutional recommendations have been posted on their website for all to see since shortly after the ELCA assembly, so the ELCA will not be surprised when they receive ours. Thinking that everything is ok if the ELCA doesn't pitch a fit or line veto our constitution is naive at best. We need to wait for the assembly actions to be put into place and look at any other changes that may be made to the model constitution. When we discover what new amendments are to be made to all ELCA constitutions, we will have a better idea of the direction we need to take.

What about leaving the ELCA. Remember, Lutheran Core and Augustana District, LCMC are still in the developmental stage. Joining one of these bodies while remaining in the ELCA is a possibility. If we chose to leave now, we would become an independant entity, without the safety net that is provided by a synodical structure. We really won't know if or when those organizations will be ready to provide a place for us, at least not until later this summer or perhaps, next year. So we must be patient, prayerful, and carefully discern where God is going to lead us. God answers our prayers, but not always as we would want or desire. Remember, we pray that His will be done, not ours. Time will tell and we need to remember that this is not a sprint, but it is more like a marathon, so we need not be in a hurry just yet.


  1. This will resolve in the Lord's time, and in the meantime, we need to remain strong in our convictions and true to our beliefs.

    He will take us where He wants us to be, but we need to be good and true shepherds.

    It is good for us to be concerned, and it is good for us to be patient as this unfolds.

  2. Your post is marked by misguided paranoia based on a couple of erroneous assumptions that include:

    1) That forthcoming changes in ministry policy will require changes in a congregation's constitution.
    2) That hiring policies must conform to civil anti-discrimination laws. The first amendment has the effect of exempting churches from many civil requirements. The exception is when the church accepts government funding--then, the church must adhere to government guidelines when spending the funds.
    3) Perhaps the silliest assumption of all is that either the ELCA, regional synods, or gay clergy themselves have any interest in placing candidates where they are unwelcome. My local bishop suggested the biggest concern for his office is to find pastoral candidates that are compatible with congregations. The bishop said that anyone who believes his office would deliberately attempt to place incompatible candidates just doesn't understand reality. Similarly, why would a gay pastoral candidate choose to go where he/she was unwelcome? Ministry is difficult enough without such an added burden.

    I recognize that many congregations, including yours, are wrestling with hard issues-- difficult enough based on true facts. My hope is that your discernment is not clouded by false pretenses.