Last week I mentioned that I was studying up on Robert’s Rules of Order to be ready for a meeting of my Lutheran congregation on Nov. 14. I anticipated I would be part of the minority, and I wanted to make sure I understood defensive measures to take in case debate was stifled.
I was, indeed, part of the minority. You can learn about the issue here, in the Arizona Republic’s coverage of the meeting. Briefly, my congregation was voting to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America because the denomination voted last year to allow congregations, if they wished, to be served by gay ministers in committed relationships. (I think the Republic misstated the situation slightly.)
My argument centered not on the issue itself but rather on my belief that we as a congregation didn’t have to take so drastic a step at this time. I’m not upset by the denomination’s position, especially when no congregation will be forced to accept a minister it doesn’t want, but I understand many are. My main point, however, is that as a matter of good churchmanship, it would have been better to stay and work through the issues instead of leaving. I believe we’re commanded to go the extra mile in that regard.
The congregation had to take two votes, as mandated by its constitution. In the first vote, last spring, only 16 percent voted to stay with the national church body. This time, 19 percent took that position, so there was a little movement. To stay, however, a third of the congregation would have had to vote this way.
I disagree with the decision, but I was pleased that the discussion on the matter was handled fairly. Also, the tenor of the meeting was good. The senior pastor, who also holds the title of president of the congregation, established a healthy atmosphere and made sure all sides were heard. For that, I’m grateful.
People have asked what I plan to do. I don’t see how I can argue, on the one hand, that the congregation should not leave too quickly and then turn around and do the same. I’m trusting that people will understand I spoke my conscience and will respect that. If that happens, there would seem to be no reason to beat a hasty retreat.
Let me know if you have thoughts about any of these issues. Thanks for reading.