Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins ...

Lutheran Head Hopes To Avoid Gay Schism:

The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest Protestant group in a showdown over gays in the faith, said Tuesday he hoped the denomination would stay united no matter what the outcome of its debate.

The ELCA General Assembly is scheduled to vote during an Aug. 8-14 meeting in Orlando, Fla., on whether gays in committed relationships should be ordained and their same-sex unions blessed by the church.

I don't expect this will end well, but I'm glad the Lutheran church is trying to approach the issue. Still, trying isn't enough; the church needs to actually change. I think there's a faily good chance I'll be leaving the Lutheran church by the end of this all.

I grew up with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. My parents were never strict church goers, never the kind to show up to every potluck dinner and Bible study class, but we went often enough that my mom knew all the older women in the church and my dad shook hands with most of the men. I didn't understand very much about church politics (hell, I didn't understand that Protestant meant not Catholic - I thought it was another denomination) until I got into high school. Church was a place where I liked how the pastor told nice, kind stories, and where I occasionally found myself for summer day camp.

At some point in high school, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was declared unorthodox by the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, our stricter cousin. I still have the news clipping of this event, nestled away in a box in my night stand. The clipping says we were declared unorthodox because we (1) ordained female pastors, (2) gave communion to other denominations, and (3) refused to condemn same-sex unions. At the time this clipping was cut out, I was proud of these details. My church was taking a stand. Now, feeling older and more disillusioned with the comforts of my childhood, I notice one very important word in that clipping: "refuse to condemn." My church was not condemning same sex unions, but it certainly wasn't blessing them.

Now, six or so years later, the church is finally voting on whether to bless the unions or not. I'll admit that if they vote not to, it'll make my life a whole lot easier. Ever since I heard about the UCC's "God is still speaking," campaign, I've been drawn to the UCC. And especially after I learned all the other unique details about the UCC - how it was in the forefront in condemning slavery, ordaining women, and accepting homosexuality - I started to really believe that I'd leave the Lutheran church for the UCC.

I suppose I can say "leaving the Lutheran church" in name only; now I know I've been leaving Lutheranism for a few years. I never felt like I could mention my girlfriend to anyone involved in the church: my fear has been holding me back. My beloved pastor left around sophomore year of college, and since then whenever I go back to St J's, I feel like I'm waiting for someone to say something homophobic. That's probably a little paranoid, as my church was never one for current events and world issues, but I can't help feeling like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. When will the day come when the new pastor says something about the institute of marriage, or when will one of the other church goers say something about gays in the church?

And as I wrote the words, "my church was never one for current events and world issues," I felt something else in me twinge. Those words are true. My church never was interested in worldly things. Why shouldn't I find a church that is interested in worldly events? We live in the world, don't we?

I want to add one final point, to make sure that this post isn't disingenuous. I talk so much about going to church, the impression might be gained that I'm an every-Sunday sort of church goer. Oh, if only that were true. As I said earlier, my family went when they could, when another pressing event didn't draw us away. During high school, I drove myself once or twice a month, depending on my school's demands (sports seasons are very bad for church).

I've always been very careful to distinguish between religiousness and spirituality in myself, as I've always felt more inclined toward the latter. But while being spiritual is enough for many people, I like the idea of the church to be lurking in the background. I don't need to go every Sunday, but as long as it's there, I felt better about religion. Feeling like I was losing the Lutheran church was sad. It's been a sad few years. And for that reason, I'm glad I discovered the UCC.

Who knows - maybe by the time I return to school for the new semester, I'll be able to officially call myself a memeber of the United Church of Christ. By that time, the Lutheran church will have decided whether or not to bless same sex marriage. I don't know if I'll be around to hear their answer.


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