“Built on a rock, the Church shall stand,
even when steeples are falling.”
I was reminded of those words by Danish pastor Nikolai Grundtvig during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last month in Minneapolis. I was there for a young rostered leaders gathering held in conjunction with the Assembly. It was a stormy time in several ways. A tornado hit the convention center and damaged the steeple at nearby Central Lutheran Church. The assembly itself was rather stormy--our Church had been discussing a new and more inclusive social statement on human sexuality.
After the pouring rain, the sun came out as soon as the social statement passed. Later in the week, resolutions were passed changing the current policy prohibiting pastors and rostered leaders who are in committed, loving, monogamous same-gender relationships. As before, no congregation is ever going to be forced to call any pastor. It’s always a congregational decision.
Also, in a beautiful display of Christian unity, the ELCA voted to work together with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on a Lutheran Malaria Initiative. A full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church was passed. This is a helpful reminder for us that we Lutherans don’t have a monopoly of God’s grace.
This is a difficult time to be the Church, but it is also a hopeful and exciting time. My heart aches with those hurt by these decisions. My heart also aches with all those people who have been excluded and ignored by the ELCA over the years. I imagine some of you are surprised, uncertain, and maybe disappointed by this. Others are relived, confident and joyous. Others are apathetic and ready to move on to more pressing issues.
Wherever you stand, I invite you into conversation. On Wednesday, September 2 at 7 p.m., we will have “Popcorn with Pastor Paul,” a time of conversation at Amazing Grace about what’s happening in the ELCA.
I feel blessed to be part of the ELCA. I appreciate our denomination’s commitments to liturgy, ecumenism, and education. I don’t always agree with everything about our church body, but that is part of the beauty of Christian community. Everybody gets to be uncomfortable some of the time. Let’s keep on being Church.
(This was my September newsletter column).