Assembly votes down gay clergy resolutionThe Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly narrowly defeated a resolution Sunday that would have called for a reversal of its denomination’s decision to allow individuals in same-gender relationships to serve in the clergy. That resolution failed by a margin of 190-213 on the second and final day of the annual assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s END Synod in Jamestown.
By: By J. Shane Mercer, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
JAMESTOWN — The Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly narrowly defeated a resolution Sunday that would have called for a reversal of its denomination’s decision to allow individuals in same-gender relationships to serve in the clergy.
That resolution failed by a margin of 190-213 on the second and final day of the annual assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s END Synod in Jamestown.
The closeness of the vote reflects the struggle that the issue of gays in the clergy has caused in the ELCA, a denomination of 4.6 million members and the nation’s largest Lutheran church body.
“I’m truly convinced that there is only one thing that will unite us, and that is to agree to disagree,” said one woman who spoke against the resolution and was among the scores of attendees who took to the floor.
One man, after noting the lack of consensus on the issue, questioned why the church should change policy, as it did at the Churchwide Assembly in August.
Charlotte Freeberg and Brenda Peterson attended the assembly and are both members of Jamestown’s St. John’s Lutheran Church, but their take on Sunday’s vote was different.
Peterson said she was “disappointed,” but Freeberg said she was “glad the vote went the way it did.”
Freeberg said there were “a lot of prayers and thoughts that went into what was done last year” at the Churchwide Assembly.
Peterson believed many congregations wanted the decision rescinded.
“But we’ll go on,” she said.
Had it passed, the END resolution would have had no binding power but would have expressed the wishes of the synod to the national denomination.
The move came a day after the assembly voted down a measure that would have called for the denomination to reverse its acceptance of a human sexuality social statement that, like the change in the gay clergy policy, was passed at the August Churchwide Assembly. Some criticized the social statement as betraying scriptural teaching on sexuality. The END assembly shot down the resolution calling for a removal of the social statement by a 249 to 179 margin.
The issue isn’t new to the synod. Last year’s END Synod assembly saw voting members narrowly defeat a resolution, 187-167, that would have urged the ELCA to allow individuals in same-gender relationships to serve in the clergy.
Asked if the votes on the gay clergy and human sexuality resolutions were an indication that people are ready to move beyond the sexuality issues, Bishop Bill Rindy said, “I don’t know so much if it’s a desire to move beyond the sexuality issues, but I think it’s more of a desire to talk about other things.”
“It’s still important to people,” Rindy said. “It’s no less important now than it was a year ago. However, people are saying we’ve got to do things that we agree on and move forward together.”
Portland Lutheran Parish Pastor Erik Heskin said, “There is a tiredness of talking about this on both sides, I think.”
Peterson spoke of doing God’s work and said she’d like to see the church focus on other issues. She sees it as a time to move forward with the mission of the church.
“I don’t necessarily agree with it,” she said, “but I think that somehow it will work out.”
Does that mean the issue is dead? Not likely.
While Heskin said he was disappointed that Sunday’s resolution failed, he also said that “there’s still another year, and we’ll see what the next year brings before the next Churchwide Assembly.”
What’s more, the END Synod’s neighbor, the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, will hold its annual assembly May 14-15 in Moorhead.
Issues related to sexuality weren’t the only ones on the agenda of the assembly, which was attended by 513. In other assembly news:
* The Mission Blitz saw hundreds of assembly attendees take part in various efforts and service projects in the area.
* The assembly rejected a resolution calling one of the denomination’s task forces to consider recommending a policy that would require some churchwide decisions to be approved by two-thirds of the denomination’s churches.
* Voting members adopted compensation and benefits guidelines for pastors and associates in ministry.
* Rindy challenged those who worship in the END Synod of the ELCA to give a minimum of $6 per month for a year as part of the “Extra Mile for Mission” program.
Shane Mercer is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.