With national convention just around the corner I have been busy getting ready. There is the usual stuff like packing, arranging transportation to the airport, convincing a 16 year old that potted tomato plants need water daily, etc. There is also lots of homework that can be done for the business of convention. Unless you have a keen interest in my tomato plants in this blog post I will stick to the business of convention.
I have been slowly reading my way through the bulletin of reports. I have printed this out and it is a good stack of paper. [I know, I know. . . I had an electronic copy why did I decide to fell a grove of life giving trees? My “Luddite” friends (and you know who you are) are going to say “I told you so”, but I did not trust the technology. My laptop battery is only good for a few hours. What if I am seated on the convention floor and no where near a life giving electrical outlet?] It is a lot of reading, some of it interesting, some not so much.
I did spend a good amount of time studying the restructuring document. It leaves me with many questions on the finer points of how it would be implemented; but on the whole it is a good plan. It faces the reality of shrinking membership today and in the future. It allows local congregations to pool their resources and do ministry where it matters most. Finally it faces the reality that small rural congregations don’t really have voice at the national level and it improves on that.
I will be voting on issues at the convention as the Spirit moves me to vote. I am not one who believes that the convention delegates should come prepared to vote as instructed by their congregations. If this was the case we could skip the helpful and healthy debates, save a pile of money, and just mail in our votes. I remember the 2007 convention when delegates voted to defeat a motion to encourage Synods to develop ways “to best minister to people who live in committed same-sex relationships, including the possibility of blessing such unions”. I was disappointed in that decision. In speaking with our delegate to that convention I learned that through the course of careful deliberation and debate she felt the church just wasn’t ready to pass that motion, and I respected her decision. The result of that decision was 4 more years of study and work. The proposed social statement on human sexuality and the resulting motions prepared for this convention are a much better proposal.
So while I believe that delegates should vote at conventions according to their conscience; I also am aware that I represent a congregation, and more than just my opinion matters. I have been trying to engage people in conversation. Not an easy task! I want your thoughts and opinions. (You may post here publicly or email me privately.)
In addition to reading and conversation, last week I also attended an information meeting for delegates presented by the KW Conference of the Eastern Synod. Lorre Calder, KW conference council member presented basic information and pointers for first time delegates. Dr Mark Harris presented and answered questions about restructuring, and Dr. Bob Kelly did the same regarding the proposed human sexuality statement. It was an interesting evening that gave me a better understanding of convention process and of some of the proposed motions. Also at this meeting was some representation from Solid Ground (an organization working very hard to ensure the motions do not pass).
At first I was glad to see that Solid Ground was there because I have read their literature and I have a hard time getting my head around their reasoning for opposition to the motions. Their documentation is not well written, confuses issues by pulling information out of context, and reads as if there is a big conspiracy at work in our elected church leadership to be unfaithful to God. However, listening to them was not helpful. They were not able to offer anything that would clarify their reasoning, but instead appear to have resorted to fear tactics. They said that our sister church, the ELCA has lost 1000 churches since passing their human sexuality statement. They did not mention that the ELCA is made up of over 10,400 congregations, and my research would show that the actual number who have left is under 450. However, most disturbing was their comment, “If we pass this social statement on sexuality, what’s next allowing bestiality and incest?” Really? This is what we should be afraid of? At that moment I couldn’t help but wonder how someone of a non-heterosexual orientation would have heard that comment.
Seriously spend some time thinking about that. What are we as the church saying to non-heterosexual children of God? Orientation is not a choice. Therefore it is also not a sin. I doubt God creates that way. Isn’t it time we as the church recognized that.