People have asked several questions pertaining to the actions at last summer's ELCA Churchwide Assembly and what is going on currently.
Current ELCA ministry policies
Why are changes being made.
What actions did the assembly take.
What changes are proposed.
How to comment on drafts.
The Florida-Bahamas Synod has also put together a number of resources on the actions at Churchwide and how we can be the church together in the midst of disagreement.
Issues concerning sexuality will always raise concern and spark emotional conversation. What is vital is with what heart we will carry on such conversations, ourselves. In John 13 Jesus reveals that one of his disciples will betray him and before the rumors and finger pointing and denials can take off and destroy their fellowship, Jesus admonishes them by giving a new commandment. Not a request. Not a tool. But a commandment:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
How is that love manifested?
In patience, kindness, forgiveness, bearing, hoping, enduring and not for our own sakes, but for the sake of one another. Jesus throws away the checklist and defines love even more simply, yet much more completely and challenging as the writer of 1 John puts it:
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
The depth of our love for one another is called to be as deep as we can possibly conceive.
Conversation about issues that evoke strongly held beliefs and understandings about God, the Holy Scriptures, and aspects of the faith can easily degrade into unloving debates when not firmly grounded in such love. Without love we stop listening gracefully and patiently. Instead of trying to put ourselves in our brother's or sister's shoes we assume the rightness of our own position and stop caring that others may have something to say to us that is important for us to hear, even if we disagree with it or it troubles us.
I would also add that as the Apostle Paul contends, that we are all part of the same body: So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. In the midst of disagreement, we are always more together than we can ever be apart. The presence of the Holy Spirit assures us that in relationship we grow, learn, love and find blessing.
As a reminder, nothing passed last summer at the Churchwide Assembly with respect to ministry practices concerning sexuality forces us to enter into the opportunities that the actions will be opening up for those congregations that will find in them a blessing. This is clear in the language and has been clearly stated all along.
For those folks for whom the actions are proving a burden, I invite you to contact me about setting up a private time for conversation as some already have.
Trinity has especially in its recent years been strongly enriched by its diversity and built a reputation as a place of welcome, warmth, and joy. That is God's gift to us, not of our own making, lest we boast. We will never agree in all things, but we can agree that we are Jesus' People, relying completely on the extraordinary grace for our lives and for all.
I will close with the words of St. Paul to the congregation at Philippi:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...
Ever in Christ with Much Love