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>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

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So this past Sunday I went to church because I'm required to as long as I'm living in my parents' house and while they're here for six months. There was a meeting scheduled after church and after coffee hour for those who wanted to participate. The meeting was regarding the ELCA's decision this past August to allow gays and lesbians in committed, monogamous relationships to serve as clergy/pastors. It was not a decision from the top but determined by a 2/3 majority vote. Democracy in action, so to speak.

Apparently, several people within our local church were upset by this decision. A "listening committee" was setup to allow people to voice their opinions. A survey was actually sent to all member; although I never received one.

This congregation is actually quite small and only has one service on Sundays. Hence, it's not a drastically large number of people debating this issue in any meeting.

The meeting started with the head of the listening committee announcing the general results of the survey. Very general results. As in, some were for the [ELCA] decision, some were middle of the road, and some were against it. How many fell into each category wasn't specified.

The floor was opened for comments, and the first guy, who is probably in his 50s, who spoke went into a what-has-the-synod-done-for-us speech. He's a relatively new member to the congregation. Been there for about two years I'd guess. (Transferred from another congregation in the area.)

Then my dad spoke briefly, partly in response to Mr. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately, to say what the synod has done and that another congregation up north who did leave the ELCA for the LCMC has had some problems. (My mom had spoken the night before to a member who had just left that congregation for another, and it was those details my dad was relating without naming names.) So Mrs. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately chimed in that my dad was wrong about what he saying. My dad was, like, okay but this is what I've heard.

Another lady stood up and spoke. She said that she knows giving is down 30% since August and that we have a good thing going here and she doesn't want things to change 'n such. Then my mom stood up and spoke. She said that she thinks of this issue in terms of the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as your self. (Both my parents are in their early 70s. It's nice knowing that they're both not only in favor of what the ELCA voted for but aren't anti-gay rights. They both believe that people are born gay and shouldn't be condemned for it.)

Yet another lady spoke and I don't even remember what exactly she spoke about because she didn't say anything worth remembering. I'm sure it was something about the bible and how the gays are going against the bible because that's the kind of person she is. They're "unrepentant sinners" and blah, blah, blah. I knew going into this meeting that I would want to chime in, instead of just sitting there silently as usual, but I didn't know what I wanted to say. So as Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners kept talking and making me more and more upset, I started looking around the room. Was I the youngest person there? Yes, probably by at least 10 years. Finally Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners finished, which made me glad because I could NOT take anymore. Literally. I was that upset.

I then stood up. And started talking. And I didn't have a plan for what I was going to say. But a lot came out. These are the bits and pieces I recall saying:
  • That I was the youngest person there and perhaps this is a generational thing.
  • I have friends and friends of friends who are gay.
  • One of the priests at my Catholic high school was gay.
  • I know of a male, gay couple who has adopted three boys (a pair of twins and another boy) through foster care. The boys are all brothers. This couple has been able to keep these boys together and provide a loving home for them. They're regular church goers with these boys. In fact, the congregation all helped out when they first took these boys into their care. These are the people we're "condemning to hell." (Because that's what you're doing when you go around calling certain groups of people "unrepentant sinners." I was also trying to put a human face on "the gays" instead of keeping things abstract.)
  • Anti-semitism used to be okay a hundred years ago. Now it's not.
  • This congregation now has a female pastor. I don't think this congregation would have been okay with that 70 years ago.
  • A gay pastor isn't being forced upon this congregation.
  • If we vote to leave the ELCA, fine. But there's no guarantee that our pastor will go with us and we all know that this congregation cannot afford to go looking for another pastor.
I may have said more but those were my salient points. I was so upset when I stood up that my left leg was shaking the entire time. It felt like I opened my mouth and a whole lot of ramble fell out.

Of course Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners chimed back in with more of her "They're unrepentant sinners" comments. I stood right back up and said, "But you're cherry picking! The bible also says we should stone women who get married and aren't virgins, but we don't do that." Yes, my comments were completely inspired by this picture:After that I figured I had enough outbursts for awhile.

There was almost another hour of conversation. Most who spoke seemed to be generally more positive. Those who spoke negatively about "the gays" seemed few in number. It basically amounted to Mr. & Mrs. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately, Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners and a guy who started reading points off an email saying that we could be down the road to bestiality and polygamy. Someone else said during the meeting to him that what he was reading was "fear-mongering." There's another couple, who are long-term members, that I know of who didn't speak during the meeting but are against the ELCA decision. So 6 people weren't close to a majority or a plurality in a meeting that started with 34 people. And those who were speaking negatively happen to be more vocal members of the congregation to begin with.

Mrs. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately said twice during the meeting that "It's a choice!" when it comes to being gay. And towards the end, after she had said her last "It's a choice" comment, the lady who had made the 30%-donation-drop comment stood up and said that her son was gay. She said that he had told her that he always felt different and knew at 14 that he was gay.

Someone else had said something about love or the Golden Rule, which reminded me of something I remembered Karen Armstrong mentioning in an interview a long time ago.

I spoke again for the last time, partially hoping to rescue myself from my previous emotional rambling. I said that there was a rabbi who was once asked to sum up the Jewish bible, the Tanak, in one sentence and he said, "Love your neighbor as yourself. The rest is commentary." "Rabbi Hillel" one guy shouted. I didn't know the rabbi's name, but there you have it.

The meeting finished and as everyone was in the process of leaving I had four people come up to me and thank me for what I said. I know it wasn't for the Golden Rule comment but for my emotional ramble. Three had spoken in the meeting; one didn't. I also had two other people thank me a few days later at Thanksgiving Eve service. I don't think any of the "It's a choice!" commenters had people thanking them for what they said.

The irony is that I was never supposed to be there for that meeting. My mom was going to take an elderly lady to church that morning who hadn't been there for several months. Unfortunately, that lady fell during the night. Luckily, she didn't break anything but was dehydrated. Of course, if my mom hadn't arranged to take her to church, she could have been lying on that floor for much longer since no one knows how long it would have been until the assisted living folks would have noticed something was wrong. My mom and I went to church in one vehicle to pick this lady up, and my dad drove in a separate car so that he could attend the meeting. Because this lady fell, my mom and I stayed for the meeting, which was not the plan.

When my mom and I were talking about the meeting at home, she noted that Mr. Fear-mongering-Email looked really tense and stressed during the meeting. She happened to be facing his direction during the meeting. In fact, she said he looked like he was about ready to have a heart attack over this. I said, "Well, may be God is trying to tell him something."

I wanted to write about this last Sunday, when I had time, but I was still so upset. I couldn't get many words down. Instead I looked up this LCMC and Lutheran CORE stuff that was mentioned by those who want to leave the ELCA during the meeting. Really, after reading it, I'm under the impression that it's a bunch of homophobes trying to create a refuge for themselves against a changing society, like they're under siege from the gay rights-approving members of the ELCA. These people don't bother to realize that time is just not on their side.

It's a statistical reality that gay marriage will be approved in California in five years. Maine too. Those are states that I can think of offhand. These people don't realize it, but they're basically saying that five or ten years from now that they don't want to grow as congregations. Because as more old people, who are statistically more likely to disapprove of gay marriage, pass away and they're replaced by young people, who approve of gay marriage and wouldn't be bothered with a married gay pastor, these LCMC and Lutheran CORE congregations are going to wither away. They'll be less likely to attract young people. Perhaps even taken over by young people in the future who would want to rejoin the ELCA because they agree with allowing gays to be clergy.

Gay rights are the civil rights battle of our time. When there is a 10-year-old comfortable enough to protest gays' lack of equality and go on tv to talk about it, it's pretty clear what direction things will take. The writing is practically on the wall.
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