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Lutherans Concerned ‘let justice roll’ during biennial conference

Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, speaks at the bi-annual convention of Lutherans Concerned/North America. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

At the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, voting members endorsed resolutions to include gay and lesbian clergy who are in monogamous, lifelong, same-gendered relationships on the roster. Almost one year later, Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA), one of the primary groups within the ELCA advocating for those changes, met in Minneapolis to celebrate the 2009 decision and to identify the groups’ changing vocation.

“We have been given the opportunity to share about God’s love in Christ Jesus with people who have experienced barriers” -Ross Murray

At a press conference at Central Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, before the closing worship, Emily Eastwood, executive director of LC/NA, explained that this biennial convention had been an opportunity “to express deep gratitude for the elimination of the barriers for pastors in same-gendered relationships … as well as the reinstatement of [pastors] to the [clergy] roster” of the ELCA.

Eastwood stressed that, even in these turbulent times and one year after the vote, 59 of the 65 synods chose not to oppose the 2009 churchwide vote. And, in fact, 26 synods are now officially Reconciling in Christ synods, having voted to be publicly supportive of full participation for gay and lesbian persons.

She cautioned, however, that the process is not yet complete. “Now we must help turn policy into practice,” she said.

Mary Lowe, a religion professor at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, echoed this theme during one of the convention’s Bible studies. “Full participation does not necessarily mean authentic welcome.”

Under the banner “Let Justice Roll Down like Waters,” the convention centered on new opportunities:

“We have been given a great evangelical opportunity,” Ross Murray, deputy director of LC/NA explained. “We have been given the opportunity to share about God’s love in Christ Jesus with people who have experienced barriers” to their participation in the church, he said.

The Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission for the ELCA, shared Murray’s excitement. “It is in mission that we can be one church,” Bouman stressed. He said that LC/NA can help focus the ELCA’s attention on “including people who have been left out.”

Eastwood said, “If we move to the center [of the church’s mission], we must ask ‘Who is still left out?’” She said that Lutherans Concerned brings gifts to its collaboration with the ELCA. “We bring rich grassroots organizing experience which understands how people create change.

“We built power by turning private pain into public action,” said Eastwood. “Now we stand at a point where we must choose [whether] to remain as victims or enter into a joyous dance that builds the church on earth. My hope is that we can dance at the center.”

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