Last weekend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) formalized the statements voted on by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, officially allowing clergy in same-gender relationships to be fully "rostered" (able to be called and serve a church). Now these clergy and their families can be part of the ELCA pension plan.
It means that pastors like Rev. Susan Halvor in Anchorage, Alaska (featured in a video in this blog post) can be formally rostered in the ELCA, after many years of feeling that they didn't have an official welcome or place at the table.
At the same time, churches across the country are being ripped apart by the resolutions. Some friends of ours were personally affected by this when the church where the husband was the pastor voted to leave the ELCA. Although the vote didn't pass, it created an angry and hurtful fissure in the community that appeared irreparable--and our friends chose to leave and move to another church. Seemingly nice people became ugly and hateful. When the Oregon Synod bishop and his assistant visited our church during Lent, they explained the process a church must go through to leave the ELCA. I'm impressed that the ELCA requires communities to go through a great amount of thoughtfulness and listening to make that decision. The bishops and their staff listen to these angry Lutherans and let them speak their peace, while trying to get them to look at the gospel and the meaning of Jesus' message.
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love wrote an eloquent post in the Huffington Post today about the process the ELCA has undertaken. As she notes, "A great truth has been realized today that Jesus Christ demonstrated throughout His ministry 2000 years ago. It is not blasphemous to include and embrace the prayers and relationships and service of those outside society's gate. In fact, it's a blessing."