Thursday, May 26, 2011

ELCA Synod Assembly Update - Week 4

Photo by David Kern

At the end of the fourth week of ELCA synod assemblies this year, the results are shown below for resolutions/memorials we are following. We will continue to give you updated information as the ELCA synod assembly season continues.

Synods Passing anti-bullying resolutions/memorials as of May 24

Assemblies held to date: 30
Anti-bullying resolution/memorial passed: 21
Anti-bullying resolution/memorial defeated: 0

St. Paul Area – 2H
Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast – 4F
Southeaster Iowa – 5D
Southern Ohio – 6F
South Carolina – 9C
Northwest Washington – 1B
Rocky Mountain – 2E
Eastern North Dakota -3B
Northwest Minnesota – 3D
South-Central Synod of Wisconsin – 5K
Northern Great Lakes Synod – 5G
Metro New York – 7C
Minneapolis Area – 3G
Southeastern Minnesota – 3I
Southeastern Pennsylvania – 7F
Metro DC – 8G
Florida-Bahamas – 9E
Alaska – 1A
Northeastern Minnesota – 3E
Arkansas- Oklahoma – 4C
North Texas-North Louisiana – 4D

Other Synod Legislative Assembly Action of Interest

Southwest California - 2B
Passed resolution on Gender Equality.

St. Paul Area – 2H
Memorial calling for congregational ratification of social statements fails nearly unanimously.

North-West Lower Michigan – 6B
Resolution to require that the term “marriage” only be used for relationships between a man and woman and that publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same gender relationships will not be recognized as marriage defeated by two-thirds (estimated).

Sierra Pacific – 2B
“Trinitarian Name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (see description below) passed with amendment allowing for inclusive and expansive language.

Eastern North Dakota -3B
Memorial to rescind 2009 ministry policy changes was not considered (motion to object to consideration passed nearly unanimously).
Memorial to revise ministry policies to exclude ministers in committed same-gender relationships defeated strongly.

Northwest Minnesota – 3D
Reconsider Social Statement on Sexuality defeated.
Require congregational ratification for social statements, constitutional changes, and ministry policy changes defeated.
Eliminate production of future social statements defeated.

Northern Great Lakes Synod – 5G
“Welcoming Traditional Lutherans” – referred to synod council.
“Trinitarian Name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – defeated
“Bound Conscience” – defeated
(see resolution descriptions below)

Descriptions of certain resolutions:

“Welcome Traditional Lutherans” -- a resolution sponsored by Lutheran CORE that says because of the 2009 decision about ministry policies, some traditional individuals and congregations may question their place in the ELCA, therefore, RESOLVED, that the _______ Synod will be a place of welcome for traditional Lutheran congregations, traditional Lutheran pastors, and traditional Lutheran lay persons; and be it further RESOLVED, that the _______ Synod commit itself to finding ways of walking together with, hearing from, supporting, and uplifting those traditional Lutheran congregations, pastors, and lay persons who seek to remain within the ELCA.

“Trinitarian Name of God” -- a resolution sponsored by Lutheran CORE that says RESOLVED, that the _______ Synod use exclusively "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or the Biblical equivalent (i.e., 2 Cor. 13:14 -- the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit) as the Triune name of God for the Invocation in all worship services held or sponsored by this Synod.

“Bound Conscience” -- a resolution sponsored by Lutheran CORE that says RESOLVED, that the _________Synod inform its congregations that they can publicly affirm the bound conscience of their members by methods such as the passing of bylaws clarifying their policies for calling pastors and performing weddings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Majority of Americans say they support same-sex marriage, adoption by gay and lesbian couples

A recent Religion and Politics Tracking Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, is the third national poll in as many months to find majority support for same-sex marriage: a slim majority (51%) of Americans now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 43% percent who are opposed.

The results of the three polls are remarkably consistent even though the other two surveys were conducted by different organizations (ABC News/Washington Post; CNN/Opinion Research Corp.) using different question wordings.
The percentage of white, mainline Protestants who support same-sex marriage is even higher: 55%.

A majority (56%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, compared to 36% who are opposed.

See the whole story.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unity Lutheran, Bel-Nor

It is my privilege to introduce our newest Reconciling in Christ congregation, Unity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bel-Nor, Missouri.

Welcome, Unity!
Unity passed an affirmation of welcome on Sunday, May 15th. They're a small congregation actively engaging with their local community and they celebrate worship together with talented, faithful musicians including a jazz group. Unity, we join you in prayers of thanksgiving as well as prayers for wisdom as you continue your journey of reconciliation together.

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

GLSEN's 2011 School Climate Survey

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, otherwise known as GLSEN, you should definitely give them a look. GLSEN has been working since 1990 to assure the safety, respect and valuing of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions in schools. They do great work establishing Gay-Straight Alliances, work on the Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week, the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign, and other great educational opportunities.

One way you can support their work is through their National School Climate Survey. This survey provides concrete data on the safety of our students and is used to advocate with and for them in order to create more welcoming schools.

Interested in taking the survey? If you …

- Attended middle or high school sometime in the past school year,
- Identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer,
- Are at least 13 years old

Then you qualify to fill out their anonymous survey. If you don’t qualify, pass the link around so others can participate. If you’re interested in seeing the 2009 report, you’ll find it here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Goodsoil Synod Assembly Report - Week 3

At the end of the third week of ELCA synod assemblies this year, the results are shown below for motions that directly spoke to issues we are following in particular. Twenty of 65 synods have held their assemblies and, thus far, the motions that we have some opposition to have either not passed or have been passed in an amended form to which we have no opposition.

We will continue to give you updated information as the synod assembly season continues. For more information about the anti-bullying resolution/memorial, visit

CUMULATIVE Synod Assembly Report Week 3


Assemblies held to date: 20
Anti-bullying resolution/memorial passed: 17
Anti-bullying resolution/memorial defeated: 0

Week 3 - May 12-15

Northwest Washington - 1B
Anti-bullying passed
HIV-related memorial passed.

Southwest Washington - 1C
HIV-related memorial passed.

Sierra Pacific - 2B
Anti-bullying failed to get to the floor because of lack of time.

Rocky Mountain - 2E
Anti-bullying passed

Eastern North Dakota -3B
Anti-bullying passed

Northwest Minnesota - 3D
Anti-bullying passed (motion to suspend rules so that it could get to floor)
South-Central Synod of Wisconsin - 3K
Anti-bullying memorial passed.

Northern Great Lakes Synod - 5G
Anti-bullying memorial passed
Thomas Skrenes re-elected as bishop on the 4th ballot.

Southeast Michigan - 6A
Donald Kreiss elected as bishop.
Synod agreed to pursue consolidation discussion with North-West Lower Michigan Synod.

Metro New York - 7C
Anti-bullying memorial passed
Synod agreed to pursue consolidation discussion with North-West Lower Michigan Synod.

International Day Against Homophobia 2011

In a world that contains the horror that is Uganda's treatment of its LGBT citizens, there are uplifting and bright shining examples of solidarity against ignorance and hatred and for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of their societies and cultures. One of those is the upcoming day celebrated round the globe against homophobia.

The International Day Against Homophobia, held on May 17, is a rallying event offering an opportunity for people to get together and reach out to one another. The International Day started in Quebec, Canada, in 2003 and has become the premier day on which to speak out for LGBT people and their rightful place in the societies and cultures in which they live, work, and worship.

Known internationally as IDAHO (for its initials, not a reference to the U.S. state), this day is now celebrated in countries across the globe. Fondation Emergence, a Canadian non-profit organization, has been the spearhead and champion for this day at the nation-level and with authorities at the United Nations. You can glean information about the international day and ideas of ways to get involved from their website,


Philip Moeller, LC/NA Director of International Programs, will be a panelist on May 17th at the World Bank in Washington, DC, for a discussion of the effects of homophobia on development in nations. Other panelists are Mark Bromley, Council for Global Equality; Leonardo E. Sánchez, Amigos Siempre Amigos; Val Kalende, a Ugandan LGBT rights advocate; Jaevion Nelson, a Jamaican human rights advocate; David Wilson, World Bank.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, in an address to the Human Rights Council this year, said, "We must reject persecution of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, who may be arrested, detained or executed for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues. But cultural practice cannot justify any violation of human rights. When our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out. Human rights are human rights everywhere, for everyone."

As Christians, Lutherans, and people advocating for the full inclusion of LGBT Lutherans in the life of their church, we know the seriousness of the struggle for equality, we share the joys of steps towards full inclusion in both the religious and secular aspects of our societies, and we are fully aware that many LGBT people on this earth face terrible oppression, hatred, violence, and even death at the hands of their fellow citizens, fellow Christians, and families, with little or no protection by their governments and, in some cases, perpetration by their governments.

Spare a moment in prayer this May 17th for all those LGBT people and their supporters in the world who live in places and cultures that deny that they are human beings, God's children and worthy of respect and equality.

In coming years we will alert you to the approach of this day, to allow you to consider how you might like to mark the day.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wingspan Ministry to begin Global Advocacy

This guest post comes from the Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota - incidentally, the church building where our office is.

Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church is beginning a new focus on global advocacy for LGBT persons. Long recognized as a leading congregational ministry for LGBT persons since its inception in 1982, Wingspan’s mission has included advocacy for justice in public policy though it is most well known for its years of work within the ELCA on behalf of full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church and as rostered leaders.

“We are most definitely not ending our witness and work in the church or in our civil communities here,” said Leo Treadway, convener of the Wingspan Global Bridges project. “However, there are LGBT persons around the globe who need our solidarity—and with whom we need to be in solidarity. The Body of Christ is not limited to Minnesota or to the U.S., and today we find ourselves called to stand with and learn from LGBT persons in distant places as well.”

Wingspan’s first global advocacy project is to raise awareness about the situation of LGBT persons in Uganda. They will also be raising funds to support the ministry of reconciliation led by Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Anglican bishop emeritus, who has been a tireless advocate for human rights, including speaking out for LGBT persons at great risk to himself.

In October 2010, Bishop Christopher and David Kato, an activist with Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), were pictured side by side on the front page of a Ugandan newspaper with the words “Hang Them” posted above their photos. Three months later, in January 2011, Kato was murdered in his home.

Earlier, in 2009, legislation was proposed in Uganda that would institute the death penalty for LGBT persons and impose seven-year prison sentences for anyone considered an “accomplice,” from friends and family members to landlords. In April 2011 there were indications that the bill, not yet passed, would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment in an effort to get it approved without further delay. Frank Mugisha of SMUG reports that ever since the bill was originally introduced two years ago anti-gay sentiment and open harassment of LGBT persons has increased, largely because of media attention and conservative churches that have been promoting passage of the bill to their congregants.

Since 2009 a number of conservative U.S. evangelical pastors have visited Uganda and participated in high-profile “anti-gay” conferences. “Whatever view one takes about their theological perspective, in Uganda the words of these American evangelicals have had an incendiary effect,” explained Rev. Keith Olstad, pastor at St. Paul-Reformation. “We, who are ELCA Lutherans, claim the word ‘evangelical’ because we believe we are bearers of ‘news that is extraordinarily good.’ But the message carried by these pastors to Uganda has only deepened the fear felt by LGBT Ugandans, and it is vitally important that we bear an evangelical witness in counterpoint to theirs.”

Wingspan’s first educational and fund-raising event will take place at St. Paul-Reformation (100 N. Oxford, St. Paul) on June 2, the eve of the Feast Day for Ugandan Martyrs from 7-8:30 p.m. It will include a screening of the documentary “Missionaries of Hate” (45 min.), an opportunity for discussion, and a request for donations. Funds raised will go to Bishop Christopher in Uganda to assist his efforts to promote human rights and his “safe house” project providing a place of sanctuary for those in fear for their lives.

David Weiss, chair of Wingspan, remarked, “We have heard it said that when the ELCA acted to widen its welcome to gay and lesbian Christians in 2009 it risked alienating many of our immigrant members and global partners. One of our hopes in this project is to help the larger church see that our widening welcome is both evangelical and life-giving to LGBT persons of faith both here in the U.S. and around the globe.”

For more information about the event contact St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, 651.224.3371. To mail in donations, make checks out to Wingspan, put Uganda in the memo line, and mail to St. Paul-Reformation, 100 N. Oxford St., St. Paul, MN 55104.

June 2, 7:00-8:30pm
Ugandan fundraiser:
“Missionaries of Hate,”
a documentary on role of U.S. evangelicals in fueling anti-gay sentiment in Uganda will be screened followed by discussion. Funds raised will support human rights and safety for Ugandan LGBT persons.
Sponsored by Wingspan Ministry
St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church
100 N. Oxford St., St. Paul, MN 55104,
Suggested donation: $25 -- no minimum amount required.

We're happy to support the work of Reconciling in Christ congregations whenever we can. If you have an event you'd like us to help publicize, please let us know!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Presbyterian Church Removes Sexual Orientation as a Barrier to Ordination and Service

Last night, the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, reached the number of local presbyteries required to approve the change in policy to allow for the ordination and service of LGBT ministers. A constitutional amendment was passed by the PCUSA in national assembly in July of 2010 initiating a ratification process requiring passage by a majority of the 173 regional presbyteries. Yesteday, the amendment was ratified with the approval of the 87th presbytery, located in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. The effort to reach this history-making change in policy has lasted for 40 years. Four times in the last 14 years the amendment to remove the prohibition for service was passed by the national body, but failed to get more than 47 of the 87 ratifications required.

Hallelujah! We join PCUSA in celebration!

The amendment ratified today will return the qualifications for ordained leadership within the denomination to those rightly based upon faith and character, not marital status or sexual orientation.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said of this historic victory for full participation, "We give thanks to God for the faith, love, grace, and, frankly, stubborn endurance of our ministry partners in the Presbyterian movement for LGBT equality in church and society. The previous order was neither good nor salutary in its limiting of service as an attempt to subvert the call and will of God on the basis of human prejudice and Bibliolatry. The witness of Christ's relentless love in the lives and service of LGBT Presbyterians is and has been richly evident. With new policy, this church has again made possible the confirmation of God-given calls to ministry. Restoration, reconciliation, and an inclusive future wherein all ministers will be judged by a single standard will unfold over time, requiring the same diligence, courage and time as that necessitated to achieve the change in policy. We join our Presbyterian full-communion partners in this effort even as we rejoice in this as a victory for LGBT people everywhere."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Goodsoil Synod Assembly Report - Week 2

Goodsoil Synod Assembly Report - Week 2

Last weekend was our second set of ELCA synod assemblies for 2011. This time five synods met, including the Minneapolis are, Southeastern Minnesota, Southeaster Pennsylvania, Metro DC, and Florida-Bahamas. Each synod passed Goodsoil's anti-bullying legislation, "Calling to Speak and Act to Prevent Bullying, Harassment, and Related Violence," almost unanimously. Praise be to God!

Call to Action on Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

We urge you to read this note from our friends at The Task Force. We've written in support of LGBT Ugandans in the past and mourned the loss of their lives and called you to action, and we're asking you to do so once again.


The now-infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been revived by Uganda’s Parliament and hearings are currently underway. The bill, in its current form, calls for the execution of sexually active homosexuals who are HIV-positive or who are considered to be “serial offenders.” The bill also imposes a sentence of life in prison upon conviction of a single “homosexual act,” and it bans the production or circulation of any information that “promotes” homosexuality – almost certainly including information on sexual health and HIV prevention, any religious leader who speaks of welcome and affirmation for LGBT persons, or any justice work on behalf and/or with LGBT persons.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton must speak out now in the strongest terms against this horrendous legislation. The time to act is now, as there have been numerous reliable reports that it is likely the bill will be approved and signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni by the end of the week unless the political debate takes a more humane turn.

This legislation is just one of example of a dangerous and rapidly deteriorating human rights environment.

At the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, 2010, President Obama said of this bill: "Surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States or ... more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."

On the same date and subject, Secretary Clinton said "I recently called President Museveni ... and expressed the strongest concerns about a law being considered in the parliament of Uganda." To listen to these comments, click here.

We call on President Obama and Secretary Clinton to make even stronger statements about the United States Government's opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill immediately. The lives of many of our brothers and sisters in Uganda many depend on this simple action.

Please contact President Obama:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
202.456.1111 (phone)
202.456.6213 (TTY/TTD)

and Secretary Clinton:
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
202.647.4000 (phone)
800.877.8330 (TTY/TTD)

Tell them, as a person of faith, you are opposed to this anti-homosexuality bill and urge them to publicly do the same.

Beautiful bells

The members of Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale, Michigan have a new celebratory sound as they enter worship: bell trees!

The bells were purchased online from all over the world and hung by the Liturgical Arts Committee on 9' walnut flagpoles on satin cord, providing an assortment of joyful noises on Sunday morning. The bell trees were inspired by a similar creation by Central Lutheran Church used at the Churchwide Assembly in 2009 and Let Justice Roll in 2010. We're happy to see the use of bells continue and bring so much joy into worship at Zion!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Silent Thoughts, Take 2

Since Believe Out Loud's video "Silent Thoughts" was posted this weekend, it has had more than 6,000 views. The organization hopes to reach many thousands more, but part of their advertising campaign has hit a wall. Sojourners, a Christian magazine known for progressive articles, has refused BOL's proposal for online advertising. As the organizers say,

To get the word out, Believe Out Loud organizers backed the launch of this viral video with a multi-layered, web-based advertising strategy that included a significant ad buy on the Sojourners web site and email newsletters—home to one of the largest networks of progressive Christians in the U.S.
So, you can imagine our dismay when Sojourners refused to run our ads. In a written statement, Sojourners said, “I’m afraid we’ll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides.”
While we are disappointed that Sojourners will not join us in spreading the Believe Out Loud love, it simply means we'll need to work that much harder to show the video ourselves. Share it with your friends, family, pastors, the people who sit in your pews, co-workers and classmates. Don't forget to point them to Believe Out Loud's website for more information about their work, including other branches of the Welcoming Church movement.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Silent Thoughts

Today's blog post comes from our friends at Believe Out Loud, a coalition of the nation’s leading religious and secular LGBT organizations that seeks to promote gay rights both within and beyond Christianity.

This weekend, Believe Out Loud is launching an unprecedented campaign to show the world that it is possible to be Christian AND believe in LGBT inclusion. The Million Strong Campaign is looking for one million Christians to break the silence and join the chorus for full LGBT equality in the church. To get the word out, on Mother’s Day we are releasing a video, as part of a “Got Moms?” ad campaign that is heart-warming, thought-provoking and demonstrates why Christians cannot remain silent on the issue of LGBT inclusion.

After you view it, join us and help us spread the word and reach our goal of enlisting one million Christians for LGBT inclusion.

It’s easy to spread the word:
  • If you haven’t yet joined us on Facebook, join us. Simply by clicking “like” you will become one of the Million Strong.
  • Share the video on your Facebook page.
  • Share this message with your friends, family, church community…anyone who has been longing for a way to connect their belief in equality to their belief in Jesus’ teaching.
Now it's our turn to speak up. For too long open-minded Christians have felt marginalized by loud voices on the religious fringe.

Break the Silence. Join the Movement. Believe Out Loud.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Faith leaders oppose Minnesota amendment seeking to ban marriages of same-gender couples

Members of the staff of Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran pastors, a Bishop's Associate, other faith leaders from many traditions, and others crowded into the Minnesota capitol building on Friday afternoon to voice their opposition to a proposed state constitutional amendment that seeks to ban marriage between same-gender couples. If passed by the state senate and house, the proposed amendment would be placed on the November 2012 election ballot.

The event was a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Minnesota State Senate. State Republicans are working quickly to introduce a bill that would define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman,” declaring that only such unions shall be “valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota.” The committee voted along strict party lines (8-4) to send the proposal to the senate.

Hundreds of folks came to the hearing, both supporters of the discriminatory amendment and those in opposition (those opposed were far more numerous). Both sides presented testimony. Among those opposed to the amendment, many made the point that denying committed couples the security and legal protections of marriage hurts couples, children, and families. The proposed amendment would throw the state into a divisive and polarizing battle that would not benefit a single family. Indeed, passing such a measure would make it harder for families to take care of and be responsible for each other. As one father of an adult lesbian daughter put it, “Why isn’t my daughter’s family worthy of protection and support?”

Testimony also included a message from Rev. David Wangaard, Bishop’s Associate for the Minneapolis Area Synod, who spoke on behalf of the office of the bishop. Rev. Wangaard emphasized that in this time of financial crisis, bringing a divisive bill such as this is counterproductive and is a distraction to the important work that needs to be done. Instead of adding constitutional restrictions, we need to work to enhance civil rights and find ways to care for the most vulnerable in our midst.

During the hearing, Senator Barb Goodwin, a member of the judiciary committee, offered two changes, each of which she hoped would be deemed a “friendly amendment.” The first was to add the words “for life,” as in "Only a union of one man and one woman FOR LIFE shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota" (essentially banning divorce). That change was voted down. The second change Goodwin proposed would have altered the amendment to read "Only ONE union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota" (essentially allowing for divorce but banning remarriage). This too was voted down.

After these attempts to change the language failed, Goodwin said that what the vote proved, and what those two [failed] amendments proved, is that this is not an issue of how sacred marriage is. It’s an issue of discrimination.

Almost all of the speakers who testified in favor of the discriminatory amendment were faith leaders. This underscores the continuing need for Lutherans and other people of faith to speak up for our values: the centrality of family, right relationships, love, mutuality, protection, the benefits to society of committed relationships, and the diversity of successful families within church and society.

See also the story in the Star Tribune, including photos.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Goodsoil Synod Assembly Report - Week 1

Goodsoil Synod Assembly Report  -  Week 1
This past weekend saw the first synod assemblies of the 2011 season in the ELCA. Four synods met (Alaska, Northeastern Minnesota, Arkansas-Oklahoma, and North Texas-North Louisiana) and all four assemblies passed Goodsoil's antibullying lesgiation "Calling to Speak and Act to Prevent Bullying, Harassment, and Related Violence." The legislation was passed by overwhelming (nearly unanimous) majorities.