Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday breakfast

Wednesday's breakfast and the following conversation allowed for us to be assigned to tables with people we would not have chosen. Each of us had a number on our nametag, assigned along with our prayer partner and several other pairs of prayer partners, which put us at tables with many people we did not know.

I was very annoyed about this at the beginning. I tried to have a good attitude, but as soon as we actually spoke up about how we felt, it became clear that this conversation on sexuality would be no different from many of the floor debates on sexuality - tense, divided, and not collegial or civil at all.

The quasi committee of the whole time (beginning at 8am) provided some directed questions for us to engage in discussion regarding ministry policy changes. We each took two minutes to describe our response to the policy changes. Our table was very much like the ELCA and very much like the task force (according to one of our table members who was on the task force): we had widely divergent and deeply held opinions regarding sexuality. We had a man who realized that by the time he got home his congregation already would have probably started talks to leave the ELCA. We had a pastor who said he might have to resign some of his synod positions (at least) if the ministry policies passed. We had a young woman who was disturbed to hear the arguments against gay and lesbian people, when for her peers, they would be completely accepted. We had me, who talked openly about serving a congregation with a significant gay and lesbian population, and all that includes. And we had a task force member, who could help us interpret what the task force's discussion and conversation had been. Another woman came up to me later and said that when she came to this assembly, she was ready to vote no on the ministry policies, but she has been convinced through the Spirit and her work here to vote otherwise.

By the end, I was giving thanks for the opportunity. Although I don't suppose I convinced any of those people of anything, I felt good for the opportunity to show my position and witness as a grace-filled, non-anxious, welcoming presence. I spoke directly to the people who felt alienated from the church and told them that I was willing to try to work within the same church body that they were. The male pastor I described above could not say the same to me. And yet, when asked at the end who would pray, I gracefully gave him the opportunity to pray rather than engaging in a tug of war over who would have the chance to do so and thanked him for his prayer. I pray that my witness at that table was a loving, caring, graceful one.

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