A Bolt of Lightening


I’ve been holding off on writing this posting, hoping that things would become more clear in my mind about just what happened last Wednesday. I’m watching the complete video of the debate and vote on the Social Statement on Human Sexuality to help me confirm, in my own mind, just what happened…..because the result of the vote seemed so incredible. I’ve come to realize that I’ll have to write and rewrite my observations of the Assembly,[ perhaps writing will help things become more clear in my thinking about just what happened.]”

The afternoon started with a charged atmosphere, figuratively and literally.

The fifth plenary began with an excellent Bible study, led by Dr. Diane Jacobson, a prime leader in the “Book of Faith” initiative and a seminar professor. She does a wonderful job–we enjoyed her presentations at our St. Paul Synod Assembly in late May.

Poor Diane! No sooner had she started her Bible study, then Bp. Mark Hanson broke in and told us a tornado had touched down at 15th and LaSalle–just a few blocks from the convention center.

Then sirens went off and PA announcements were heard throughout the convention center. “A tornado has damaged parts of the convention center. Please remain in the hall.”

Finally, we got the all-clear from the warnings, but our nerves were put on edge, right from the start.

Then, we moved into the Social Statement. There were a number of attempts to revise the Social Statement, but all of the major amendments were defeated. I was so impressed with the professionalism that was used to take each amendment, consider it, and then present it to the assembly. A special Reference and Counsel Committee was set up, just to vet the amendments to the Social Statements. Our electronic voting devices saved hours of time tabulating results. And, they were much more reliable than looking at colored cards or judging from a voice vote.

And, then, after all the amendments, we were at the cross roads. The big decision. It came very quickly. I think everyone was suddenly caught with the realization–“this is it. This is the decision-time.”

Then, we prayed. Bp. Hanson asked all of us to pray silently. What thoughts and feelings must have been going through the minds and hearts of all in the hall–voting members, visitors, staff.

So, we voted. Bp. Hanson always hesitated a few moments to announce votes, just to be sure he saw the results correctly. This time, it was different. He looked at his computer screen, where he could see the results, but we couldn’t. He looked somewhat shocked, but he kept his composure. He simply said, “Let me check the results.”

After a few moments of discussion with the technicians, he turned to us, and asked that the results be revealed.

Yes: 66.67%

No: 33.33%

So, by precisely the margin required by the ELCA constitution, the Social Statement was adopted. A change of one vote, from “yes” to “no” would have defeated the Social Statement.

There was silence, at first, in the hall. Then, gasps and small cheers in the back of the hall. It was like an electric charge–a bolt of lightening–went through the whole hall.

Bp. Hanson called for silence.

Then, he gave a beautiful message about the importance of understanding the feelings of all those who were in the hall and all those, all over the world,  watching our vote.

I would love to talk to many of my fellow voting members about why they voted the way they did. The initial rules votes showed a preliminary indication of a majority of support for the Social Statement. So, what happened? How did the vote count increase from the preliminary vote to the final vote?

Was it the Holy Spirit? Was it majority rule?

I talked to breakfast partners the next morning. One said, “The silent prayer before the Social Statement vote moved me to support the Social Statement.” Another breakfast partner, a bishop, said, “It was the bishops. They finally got behind the Social Statements [In 2005, some of the bishops spoke to turn down and delay the Social Statement.]”

As a voting member, I came to appreciate deeply the times of prayer and silence, before we cast our votes.

So, what do you think? Spirit? Political Power?

I’ll comment a bit later on the surface similarities between our assembly and a political convention.

Next entry: Implementing the Social Statement


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: