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For previous posts on the ELCA’s 11th Annual Churchwide Assembly, click here.

Okay, I’m calling this The Vote.  That’s not an official name, just mine, for the vote on ordaining sexually active, monogamous gays into the ELCA. 

The Assembly took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This is not generally a locale known for strange weather outside of bone-chilling cold and long winters.  Yet, something unusual happened on Wednesday, August 19, 2009.

At 2 p.m. that day, the Assembly were to convene to discuss the ‘Proposed Statement on Human Sexuality’.  Across the street from the Minneapolis Convention Center is a Lutheran church which the group were using for worship during the Assembly.

John Piper, celebrated in Reformed circles, is a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  He takes up the story on his Desiring God blog:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said … ‘That looks serious.’

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city…

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.    

The time: 2PM.  

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

Central Lutheran Church Minneapolis 1964_steeple
















Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God…

2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith…

3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered…

6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

Piper later had to post another entry clarifying what he had said.  I left out the more contentious points 4 and 5 from the original post, which you can read at your leisure.

Yet, tornado or no, it made little difference to the ELCA Assembly.  The Presiding Bishop Mark S Hanson issued the following statement explaining the vote, excerpts of which follow (highlights mine):

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15

I write to you from the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis with official information about the actions of this assembly related to human sexuality…

The assembly adopted 676-338 — precisely two-thirds of those voting — “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” the ELCA’s 10th social statement, with minor editorial amendments. It also adopted a series of implementing resolutions with amendments. This theological and teaching document builds on the key Lutheran principles of justification by grace and Christian freedom to serve thy neighbor…

The assembly adopted the resolutions in the following order, beginning with a strong statement about how we will live together in the face of our disagreements:

Resolution 3: “RESOLVED, that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all.” (Adopted 771-230 as amended)

Resolution 1: “RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” (Adopted 619-402)

Resolution 2: “RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.” (Adopted 559-451)

Resolution 4: This resolution called upon members to respect the bound consciences of those with whom they disagree; declared intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making about candidacy and the call process; eliminated the prohibition of rostered service by members in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships; recognized and committed to respect the conviction of members who believe that the ELCA should not call or roster people in committed same-gender relationships; called for development of accountability guidelines; directed that amendments to ministry policy documents be drafted and approved; and stated that this church continue to trust congregations, bishops, synods and others responsible for determining who should be called into public ministry. (Adopted 667-307 as amended) …

But many ELCA members — people in the pews — believe that their consciences and convictions (contrary to the vote) will not be respected when it comes time to getting a new pastor or rostered minister.    

Tomorrow: The aftermath of the ELCA vote


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