October 27, 2009
I have been with my pastor theologian continuing education and colleague group this year. We have been finishing our work on ‘allegiance and apologetic’ working especially with Daniel and Augustine’s Confessions. More on that later and elsewhere. Three of the group are ELCA Lutherans. (Our friend from the Missouri Synod has H1N1 and could not be with us). They serve in quite different settings from each other and enjoy quite distinctive theological emphases, but they are each dealing with the repercussions in their congregations of decisions of their General Assembly this summer which authorized the possibility of ordaining partnered lesbian and gay people and made a statement that declines to condemn homosexuality as inherently sinful. People in their congregations are showing the whole range of responses that we have experienced over the years at All Saints’, including seeing valued friends taking this as the immediate cause of their leaving the church or striving to get their congregations to separate from the ELCA en masse.
I find myself having a spectrum of reactions: sorrow that they have to go through this; sorrow that there are still so many people who cannot imagine God’s love and grace being at work in these decisions of their wider community of faith; massive relief and gratitude that we are largely through the turmoil of this significant shift in anthropological understanding; tired of discussing homosexuality apart from the reality of the lives of the people that I am given to love and serve and with whom I gather around the Table.
We have talked a lot about the insights of the family system theory of Murray Bowen and the reality that the systems in which we live do and will resist, sabotage, undermine change and otherwise seek stasis. I shared Giles Fraser’s memorable sermon at All Saints’ in which he asked us to change seats and then reflected on our resistance to change, and especially change announced and brought about by God through John the Baptist. We joined in hoping that we could recognize and acknowledge the reality that there is a significant change taking place as we move to a new understanding of homosexual people and that change includes a tipping of the balance of power on these issues in church and state. WE have also hoped that as we are all subject to God’s transforming grace we can help one another in our various disappointments to recover the role of the ‘loyal opposition’ where that is appropriate (rather than leaving in a huff for a place where we can have our preconceptions and beliefs affirmed rather than challenged.) As we have talked about the Communion of Saints’ and the unspeakable love of God expressed as the resurrection of the body after death, we have remembered that whatever happens we will keep working this out in the love of God.