Archived Boards > ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2007

Sexuality Matters Concluded, Sort of

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Richard Johnson:
After morning prayer, a voting member immediately came to the microphone and moved that the text of any further am endments that might be offered on Category E be printed and distributed (so that the Assembly would have wording ahead of time). Chair spoke about the difficulty of this, since persons who may be contemplating such a substitute and may have handed it in, may in fact ultimately decide not to introduce it. He consulted with the Parliamentarian, who said it was appropriate, but still logistically difficult. As this was being discussed, there was a problem with the p.a. system in half the house (including the press section). Utter sound system chaos ensued. Bishop called on choir to sing a number, but things just got worse. Loud reverb, gongs, buzzes, sound technicians running here and there, people lining up at the microphones, apparently to debate the motion. Bp. Hanson announced there had only been one additional substitute submitted. The Assembly voted against having it distributed. Many more people wanting to make motions. Bishop asked if he couldn’t please just suggest the agenda first, so they would know what they were talking about. His announcement had one change to what I posted earlier: He wants to do constitutional and bylaw amendments this morning (apparently concerned that a quorum is going to evaporate).

Motion to limit debate on all matters related to E2 (standards for rostered leaders), E3 (restraint in discipline), and E4 (other referrals to task force on sexuality) to twenty minutes on each category. Motion to limit debate approved by 80%.

Motion to move the reports of Multicultural Committee and Reference and Counsel to the afternoon. This engendered some concern and discussion, most of which was not particularly significant. Motion defeated.

Motion that each speaker in debate on memorials be limited to 90 seconds. Motion failed, getting 58% but not the required 2/3. So the Assembly now spent 20 minutes debating ways to save time this morning.

Bishop Hanson presented a gift of appreciation to Charles Miller, in recognition of his retirement after a great contribution to the ELCA.

Fifth ballot for secretary was taken (majority required).

The Assembly considered an en bloc motion to approve various amendments to the constitution and bylaws (of the ELCA, synods, and congregations). One item had been removed from en bloc. The motion to approve carried by the requisite 2/3 vote (96%). These are mostly technical and insignificant. One that engendered some discussion in the halls was this:

Ordained ministers previously under call to the churchwide organization or to a synod shall respect the integrity of the ministry in which they no longer serve and shall not interfere with or exercise the functions of the office or position in which they no longer serve unless invited to do so by the presiding bishop or Church Council in the
churchwide organization or, in the synods, by the bishop or the Synod Council.

Usually an amendment comes about because of some “problem” that has arisen. What was behind this one? There were some who were wondering if this might be a suggestion to former Presiding Bishop Chilstrom to chill out a bit in his advocacy of changing the standards for rostered leaders.

One item which had been removed from en bloc motion had to do with the Mission Investment Fund. The amendment seemed to be broadening the purposes for which loans could be made, and there was some concern about this. The Treasurer responded to the concern, and the proposed amendment was adopted by a vote of 93%.

The results of the ballot were announced:  Swartling, 611; Schreck, 366. David Swartling elected the second Secretary of the ELCA. The Assembly responded by singing “Holy God, We Praise Your Name.” Swartling responded: “I stand before you as your humble servant . . .There are two books I have before me as I have served as your parliamentarian. One is Roberts Rules of Orders (I want to be scrupulously fair to everyone in this church). The more important is the Bible. This is why we gather together: Because Christ died for us. I have been reflecting this week on the characters in this book who changed their direction and geographical location late in life. He spoke graciously to his bishop(s), to the Vice Presidents of the synods, to the staff of the Secretary’s office, to retiring Secretary Almen. He pledged to give his wisest counsel to Bp. Hanson. To the Assembly, “I want to be your colleague in the gospel, your partner in prayer.” One of my favorite Bible stories is the miracle of Cana, when Jesus took something ordinary and turned it into something extraordinary. I hope God will take my life and do extraordinary things with it for this church.

The Bishop and Assembly also expressed appreciation to Pr. Schreck for his participation in this discernment process.

Return to consideration of memorials. There are two items still pending, one the Craig Johnson substitute for the referral recommendation; and the other to add a paragraph to the referral recommendation that would specifically direct the task force to address and make recommendations to the 2009 Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of the ELCA.

A voting member immediately moved the previous question on all matters before the house. The bishop explained what the three matters are: the proposed amendment, the proposed substitute, and the main motion, but then Bp. Rogness raised the point of order that the motion for the previous question was not a privileged motion, and the man who made it was not next in the order of speakers.

Then the next speaker was called upon, and he moved the previous question on all before the house! The motion was narrowly approved—68.7%.

The first vote, then, on the amendment to direct the task force to bring recommendations regarding any changes in policy. Approved by 70%.

The vote on the substitute, which would essentially provide for exceptions to the policies on rostered persons in committed homosexual relationships.  Motion defeated 472-520 (48/52%).

On the Memorials Committee recommendation to refer: Motion approved, 819-171 (83/17%).

Next the Assembly took up category E3 on restraint in discipline. The recommendation is to refer to the Conference of Bishops as information. Previous question was moved, but fell just short of the 2/3.

A motion to substitute this language by Bp. Landahl:

Resolved, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members the CWA prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from and de3monstrate restraint in disciplining  those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates  who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship, and be it further

Resolved, that the CWA prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from and demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.

David Gleason, a PA member: All these have been introduced by bishops who are asking us to overturn decisions made, introducing dissension into these matters.

Eric Peterson, MN: How much time and money are we going to squander on disciplinary trials? Let’s have a cease-fire, stop the bleeding of our church, focus on mission. No more trials. This is the fair, wise, and pastoral thing to do.

Arthur Murphy, Texas Louisiana. Let’s not bring in through the back door what we have declined to do through the front door. Let’s not make piecemeal policy, but make a comprehensive solution in two years.

[Aside: There is still a serious problem with the sound system, a loud hum that makes hearing difficult and apparently also slows the identification of speakers.]

Tim Fisher, Minneapolis area synod: Seeking restraint allows bishops to emphasize relationships instead of rules. This is a model example of “living together faithfully.”

Dean Richards, SW Penn. What does this mean, to say first “refrain from” and then “exercise restraint”? Seems to mean two different things. Landahl replies: “It is an attempt to put this into a couple of different ways of expressing it.” [Later came back and asked to add “or” between the two phrases.]

Voting member from MN: In favor of referral. If we adopt this, we are adopting a practice that we have not yet determined is in fact faithful.

Bp. Bouman, NY: Yesterday you heard from Katrina Foster. She serves a congregation in an area of poverty, serves well and faithfully. What good does it do to discipline that pastor or that congregation?

Timothy Whiteman: I have studied, read every book, but I see our church not following its own teachings. We must continue to do our work, not a back door entry. If we are talking about cease-fire, we need to stop ordaining and placing those who would be subject to discipline. The cease-fire needs to come on both sides. Not just stop prosecuting, but stop placing. I don’t see that here. It gives bishops permission to continue to place pastors who are in violation.

Christopher Barry: I’m a campus pastor, we work with students of all faiths. We need resources that we can’t get because we spend too much money on discipline trials. This just allows bishops to support evangelism and mission support, poverty and justice issues, instead of dealing with this issue that so many here seem just to want to refer to a task force.

Gary Diers: Listening to this debate is breaking my heart. But we live in a post-modern world where everyone defines right and wrong for himself. I’m a farmer, I work daily around large animals. We raised five children, who always wanted to work with Dad. But because I love them, I built a fence to keep them safe. Our Creator has given us boundaries.

Dean Richards, SW PA: Asking for clarification—adding the word “or” does not really solve the problem. Are we asking synods and bishops to refrain from discipline, or demonstrate restraint in discipline?

Point of order was called that we’ve passed the 20 minutes—time to pray, and then to vote. Checked with timekeeper: 45 seconds left. Last speaker: Jeremy --- New York. Refers to list of pastors “out of compliance”—how many will we remove?

On the motion to substitute, approved 536-467 (53-47%).

Benjamin Landon raised parliamentary inquiry: Isn’t this asking that a bylaw be negated, and thus require a 2/3 vote?

John Emory from Wisc: Moved that because of the impact this would have the governing documents of the church, suspend the rules to require this matter to have a 2/3 vote. Chair ruled this in order. [Note: It is now almost impossible to understand what is being said.] Motion to suspend the Rules defeated, 434-531.

Main motion is now the Landahl motion. Vote on the motion approved: 538-431 (56/44%).

Assembly took up E-4, which would refer memorials related to blessing same sex blessings to the task force.

Timothy Mumm: As a gay man, I’d ask the assembly members to abstain from sexual relations with their own spouses during the next two years as they pray for me to have the gift of celibacy for my whole life.

Kimberly McCoid: this issue is about the church. Do I think that our church will one day bless same sex unions? Yes. But I believe we must first fulfill the study process. This is greater than I, or any individual story.

A motion to close debate was approved. The recommendation to refer to approved, 74/26%.

Analysis: While the Assembly generally wanted to follow the Memorials Committee advice to put off all these matters until 2009, they narrowly saw this as one small step that might be taken now by encouraging bishops to exercise restraint in discipline. Of course the fallacy here is that bishops already the ability to exercise restraint, and plenty of them have done so. They have this ability, both in terms of whether or not to file charges against pastors, and what kind of discipline to impose (a trial and removal, or private admonition). What this really does is to give cover to those bishops who have been neglecting their responsibilities, and encourage bishops in the future to do so. Bottom line, the Assembly has encouraged bishops to ignore the constitution, bylaws and policies of this church.

There was a break while the Assembly stood to sing “O Holy Spirit, Enter In.”

Pr. Jerry:
The sadness I have coming out of this debate is that the truth is not being told, especially by those who are seeking to undo the standards.  No one is stopping anyone from "doing ministry," as contrary to the campus pastor...  No one is "rooting out" those who are violating the standards and policies of the Church, they are proudly announcing themselves...  Bishops are already excercising "restraint" and even celebrating the disobedience of their Pastors...  To accuse the ELCA and the CWA of "ignoring" synods and being inhospitable (as Bp. Landahl asserted), after we have spent this ammount of time and effort listening to the arguments to "change" is preposterous.  The flat-out falsehoods and false arguments are startling. 

I don't want to imply that the "pro-change" side is being insincere, but they are just flat-out arguing some other battle than what is in front of the assembly.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

After several votes turning down efforts to change the ELCA's "Visition and Expectations" document that governs the standards required for rostered workers, in order to permit such relationships, this was a substitute motion to ask at least for there to be an end to any disciplinary efforts against such rostered workers, a "cease fire" or a "time out" as it was put on the floor during the debate. My sense is that the voting members of the Assembly simply had been worn out emotionally by the plaintive speeches made by, and for, homosexuals in relationships and this was perhaps regarded as a gesture of conciliation. Upon further reflection perhaps a number who voted for this will realize that they have, effectively, just given a green light to what in Scripture is very much a large, flashing red light and "danger" sign.

The best speech on this matter, in my opinion, was given by a dairy farmer from Wisconsin who rose and said, simply and powerfully:

I've listened to the debates over homosexuality all week. This debate is literally breaking my heart. In this post-modern world which says everyone defines what is right or wrong for himself/herself, the idea of discipline for violating boundaries is viewed as injustice. We can not live our lives without boundaries. I'm a dairy farmer and I work daily around large animals and large pieces of equipment. We raised five children who always wanted to be with dad. Because I loved them I built a fence and they had to stay in the boundaries of the fence, even if they cried or begged. They could climb out. When they did they were disciplined. It did not matter how much they wanted to be with me, or I with them. Our Creator has given us boundaries, if we could live within those boundaries a need for discipline would not exist.

Here is the full text of the notes I prepared while watching/listening to the ELCA Assembly. I thought the floor speeches were particularly interesting.

They just voted to close debate on all matters before the house: all the sexuality issues, effectively.

Now they are going to vote on the amendment before the house, which would ammend the memorials committee recommendation to add a new final paragraph which would read to direct the Task Force to address specifically and make recommendations on changes on any policies re. homosexuals on the roster.
Vote results:
Yes: 692
No: 303
Adopted (simple majority required)

Substitute now being voted on to put in place an exception policy by which Synod bishops "for pastoral reasons and for the sake of mission and mission" would permit a person in "mutual chaste and faithful relationship" may be on the roster and subject to no future discipline for this situation.
Vote results:
Yes: 472
No: 520
Defeated (majority required -- 53 votes shy of approval).

Final vote to amend
Vote results:
Yes: 819
No: 171
Recommendation as amended is adopted.

So....the bullet was just barely dodged on these issues.

E3 Now before assembly, p. 69, Section 6.
Recommended action:
[sound problems persist - they can not fix hum completely until the break - power circuit has been blown - short in circuit somewhere, apologies from chair]

First speaker recognized. Called the question.
Vote to end debate results: failed to close debate
Yes: 620
No: 320 (approx) 2/3 required to close debate, only got 62%
Delegates are getting impatient to move along.

Debate is open (Some confusion. Chairman humorously says: "Help me out bishops, if you are going to shout out advice, make it be true! "- good chuckle)

Substitute to amend now being made:
The CWA prays, urges and encourages all bishops, synods, etc. etc. ... to refrain from any disciplinary action against any person in a mutual, chaste, same-gender relationship and that the CWA prays, urges and encourages all ... to refrain from disciplining any rostered person in mutual, chaste, faithful same-gender relationship.

This is yet one more "last stand" measure to permit exceptions and to permit actively homosexual persons to continue in ministry and office without any consequences.

Speaking to motion:
I think 21 Synods that have memorialized the Synod. We have been totally ignored. The hospitality is not carying through. We pray somebody will listen to us and give us some breathing space to do what God is calling us to do - [angry speeches usually don't work well, particularly after the issue has been voted down now twice].

Call question on all matters before the house now made.

Motion is to close debate on all matters, both substitute and the recommendation from memorial committee.

Point of clarification now being asked: person complaining about call of the question. It is an appropriate motion.

Vote on ending debate on these
Motion to close debate on all matters is defeated 541 voted yes, needed 2/3

Now debate on this substitute resolution to grant exemption from discipline for all same-gender relationships.

Speaker now saying that all exceptions have been made by bishops, calling on the ELCA to set aside its decisions. Distressing to the faithful to see bishops, who are to be signs and symbols of unity, introducing dissension. We need to consider how we are going to be church when the bishops are introducing dissention.

Speaking in favor of substitute: We have heard encouragement to journey together faithfully ... we should ask our bishops to not take actions against same-gender relationships. We ask them to wait with us then we need to refrain from disciplining faithful leaders. If we do not do this we injure the mission/ministry of the ELCA. We have removed faithful leaders and disrupted congregation's ministry. Cost too high to a great church. How much more time, money resource are we going to squander. Let's have a cease-fire. Let's take a time-out. Let's have time to listen to each. Stop the bleeding of our church. Focus on mission and ministry, no more trials like Pastor Schmeling which leave body broken and bruised, a visible and public black eye. It is fair, wise and pastoral thing to do.

Speaker: TX-LA Synod speaker - I too would like to talk about the process we have engaged in and trying to get in the back door what we are preventing from happening through front door. Two days ago we refused to bless same-sex unions. Not we are trying to get in the back door what we did not do through the front door. I urge us not to make haphazard piecemeal policy but to create comprehensive solution at 2009, pass it one way or the other. Let us not give to the rostered leaders what we are not willing to give to the laity. If the leadership of the LBGT community have not given any relief to the laity in blessing same-sex unions, we only want to talk about rostered. This is haphazard, self-serving and piece-meal policy that should not be followed. Let's come back next time with comprehensive solution.

Speaker for substitute: Seeking restraint  means asking bishops emphasizing relationships over rigid system. God's house has many doors. Sometimes we even lower people through roof. Moderation in discipline is an example of living together faithfully.

Speaker procedural question: The language is confusing to me: The CWA urges, encourages....refrain from and demonstrate restraint...I'm not sure what these terms really mean. What does this mean? It might be interpreted the wrong way. Chair asked Bishop who made motion to respond to the question [nice way to give him more time to lobby for it]..."An attempt to put in a couple of different ways with words to put restraint into discipline process."

Next speaker: Speaking in favor of memorial. If we adopt this substitute we do adopt a practice we have not yet determined is faithful or permitted in this church.

Next speaker: Steven Bauman, Metro New York: Yesterday, Pastor Foster shared story of her family and congregation she serves, South Bronx. This church serves people in poverty and is of people in poverty. What good would it do to do anything but support her and her ministry? You take a child, baptize, catechize that child, you stretch our you hopes, that child comes to New York. That church comes to New York and is gay. Give us some pastoral room! We want to be your parnter:

Speaker: Paul was off an adventure for the Church but Jesus blew him out of the saddle. I have studied and read everything I can and I see our Church not following its own teachings. It is very important that we go back and wait and do our work. Continuing to try to find a way arond what we should be doing and doing these back door entries is not the way to accomplish this. It is very important if we are going to talk about cease-fire and restraint then we need to stop ordaining and placing people who would be subject to the discipline of church. Cease-fire is two ways. Stop prosecuting and stop placing! I do not see that in this resolution. I see it as permission fr those bishops who wish to violate and to continue to ordain and to place pastors who do not meet V/E. Cease fire must come from both.

White card: If we would put from "or" in refrain from or demonstrate....bishop speaking to his resolution again. Maker put that in by unan. consent.

Speaker: Christopher Barry, campus pastors in NW Washington Synod. Work with hundreds of young adults. Presbyterian and Methodists, Jewish center, Muslims in our center,come to studies. I work with students. Our job as campus pastors and other peoples in the church and others working with outside people. We need constantly time and resources we need because we are spending so much time and money rooting out pastors. This sub. resolution does not talk about ordaining LBGT people. All it says is bishops can work on miss/min and to allow them to support evang. and mentoring and leadership dev, to deal with poverty and justice instead of dealing with this issue. We need to get on with mission/ministry in our location and dozens of others. Adopt this.

Speaker: Minneapolia area Synod. This debate is literally breaking my heart. In this post-modern world which says everyone defines what is right or wrong for himself/herself, the idea of discipline for violating boundaries is viewed as injustice. We can not live our lives without boundaries. I'm a dairy farmer and I work daily around large animals and large pieces of equipment. We raised five kids who always wanted to be with dad. Because I loved them I built a fence and they had to stay in boundaries of the fence even if they cried begged. They could climb out. When they did they were disciplined. It did not matter how much they wanted to be with me, or I with them. Our Creator has given us boundaries, if we could live within those boundaries need for discipline would not exists.

Speaker: Same man asking for more clarification from maker of motion. Word "or" does not clarfy. Chairman said, "Take your turn in line because those questions go into expressions of response." Wait your turn and wait to you have a turn. I do not regard it as priv. motion to interrupt debate.

Point of order: According to my time, we have passed twenty minutes for prayer and vote. Chairman is checking. We have one minute to go.

Speaker: Met. New York Synod: "How many?" We have devotional books this week that show us people who have been embraced  by their bishops. We all benefit from their service. How many of them will we remove? If we are going to have fair policy. Every last one should be removed? How many good pastors can we sacrifice? How much can the Gospel afford this?

Chairman now calling for minute of silence, followed by his prayer.
Chairman now using historic collect.

Now vote on substitute motion by Bishop Landau
Interrupted by question. "I'd like the governing body to reconsider earlier rule of debate." Will take it up after vote, chair responds.

Vote to substitute the "no discipline" motion. Passed.

Substitute motion is before the assembly.
Very close vote to accept, one of closest at assembly.

Point of order: Speaker claims the motion is in effect asking the ELCA is asking that a bylaw be negated and that therefore a 2/3 vote should be required to approve since effectively this says we will not enforce a bylaw and negating therefore a 2/3 vote is required.

Another speaker: Depending on chair's ruling on question, wait to speak.

Chairman: The question is allowed re. Constitutionality of the matter. If bylaw is negated then a 2/3 vote should be required, claims the person asking the question.

[McCain aside: This has now become the key moment at the Assembly, for the CWA just voted effectively to urge its bishops, synod, etc. to take no actions against same-sex relationships amongs its rostered church workers, my sense is that some delegates view this as 'fair' while perhaps not fully appreciating how it effective negates the decisions to wait to take any action until the 2009 Assembly. Emotion will win the day on this.]

Long pause now while chair seeks clarification and decides. This is his key decision. Almen is now offering his opinion.

Almen said: "The question is whether motion on floor effectively amends bylaws. Answer is NO. Bylaws remain in place in Chap. 20, but what is being addressed in motion on floor relates to application of policies adopted under the bylaws and provided for bylaws. Therefore we are not dealing with a de facto or direct amendment to bylaws. Therefore, given that interpretation, ruling is majority vote only and is therefore adopted. [In other words, since the bylaw is not being changed, no 2/3].

Microphone 5: Move to suspend rules and request because of the profound implications passing this resolution would have for governance. This resolution should be passed by 2/3 majority.Calling for suspension of rule. Not debatable. Point of order raise.Chair warns it is not debatable.

Speaker calls for suspending rules in order to require a 2/3 vote on this matter.

Question raised again. Chair explains that Bishop Landau's substitute is before the house majority required to pass it. Speaker just moved that a 2/3 vote be used to adopt Landau's substitute motion.

Now vote on motion to suspend rules to require 2/3 vote on the next vote.
Point of order raised: If we do not adopt by 2/3, then we just go on to next section of memorials.

Voting to suspend rules to require 2/3. Takes 2/3 to adopt
Vote results:
Yes 432
No 541

Motion to suspend rule is defeated.

Main motion now before the assembly. We have completed twenty minutes allotted.

Main motion before assembly, to suspend any discipline.
Majority required to adopt.
Vote results
Yes 538
No 431

Motion is adopted.

The ELCA CWA has voted to urge/encourage all its bishops, synods, etc. to "refrain" from and "demonstrate restraint" in taking any disciplinary actions against any rostered worker in a same-gender mutual, chaste and faithful relationship.

So, what has now happened is that the ELCA has effectively urged all of its bishop to cease and desist from taking any disciplinary actions against homosexuals in relationships. What will faithful bishops do? Can they follow this direction and still discipline those pastors who are living as homosexuals with their partners? How would this be possible if they are to "refrain from" and "demonstrate restraint" in taking any disciplinary actions? If a bishop chooses not to heed this direction from the CWA, the highst legislative assembly in the ELCA, would a decision to discipline an actively homosexual rostered worker hold up in any appeals process? Or would this CWA direction overturn any such decision by a bishop?

My apologies for any typos, etc. in the above material. I was typing as I was listening.

The Catechism's question comes to mind: What does this mean?

Pastor McCain asks:
So, what has now happened is that the ELCA now has effectively urged all of its bishop to cease and desist from taking any disciplinary actions against homosexuals in relationships. What will faithful bishops do? Can they follow this direction and still discipline those pastors who are living as homosexuals with their partners? How would this be possible if they are to "refrain from" and "demonstrate restraint" in taking any disciplinary actions?

I comment:
Well, "faithful bishops" - and until one is brought up on charges and convicted, we have to assume that all our bishops are "faithful" - can do a number of things. They can take disciplinary action against people in committed relationships if they wish to do so, even though this Assembly has urged them not to do so. Or they can refrain from exercising discipline as they are entitled to do. Or they can exercise the discipline in ways that might not remove those people from ordained ministry or oust congregations from synods. That's what our "faithful bishops" - all 66 of them - can do.


--- Quote from: Richard Johnson on August 11, 2007, 11:42:58 AM ---What this really does is to give cover to those bishops who have been neglecting their responsibilities, and encourage bishops in the future to do so. Bottom line, the Assembly has encouraged bishops to ignore the constitution, bylaws and policies of this church.

--- End quote ---

So this doesn't have to run a test for constitutionality, even though it effectively urges violations?

In Christ,


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