Social statement adopted, business proceeds despite weather scare

The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop
The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop

Friends, I imagine by now that you have heard something about excitement here at the Churchwide Assembly today. I am writing you late on Wednesday night, and the city of Minneapolis is quiet, but earlier there were rain storms that got harder and harder. Then, early in the afternoon, a tornado hit the Convention Center where we were meeting. No one was hurt, I believe, although there was damage to Central Lutheran Church, right next door. Believe me, a tornado close by gets your attention. When the warning sirens began to wail, and when they asked us to stay in our big enclosed meeting hall and not to go near the windows, our mood became even more intense than it had been before.

The mood had been intense because we were spending the afternoon debating the proposed social statement on human sexuality. Social statements are teaching documents of our church, and this social statement had been in preparation for a long time. We had certainly talked about it often in our synod, and in the end the Churchwide Assembly adopted the statement. JUST adopted the statement. Because of our rules, social statements require the votes of two-thirds of the assembly members present and voting. The human sexuality study got EXACTLY two thirds of the votes cast.

I’m glad we adopted the statement. It contains much material that will be helpful for years to come. It encourages us to see that our sexuality is a gift from God, who calls us to be faithful and trustworthy as sexual beings. The statement also calls us to see how sexuality has been turned into a commodity by our culture. There are powerful sections on marriage and on raising children. And there are a few controversial sections about same-gender sexual attraction (I’m sorry to say that these sections seem to be all that anybody in the public media will care about when our assembly actions are reported). We needed to adopt this statement. Yet its very narrow adoption is a blessing, I think, because it will mean that we all have to acknowledge how much we still differ and how much we still need to discuss with each other.

I think you would be proud to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America if you could see us going about our business. Generally speaking we are faithful and serious, but we aren’t overwhelmed by our seriousness. Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is a master at running a large and complex meeting. We have prayed together almost continuously and the worship experiences are very moving. I will try to write some more later.

Keep us in your prayers,

Bishop Graham

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