In July 2010 the Assembly of Lutherans Concerned North America took place in Minneapolis, USA. Susan Murphey was there and wrote a report.
Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters (Amos 5:24) was a good theme for this year’s Assembly. All through the days together there was evidence of God’s mercy and grace, and justice for LGBT people in the USA. The beginning of a river starts with a trickle, a small flow of water. Here too are signs of changes that will surely grow and multiply ~ until there is full inclusion in churches throughout the world.
There were workshops and talks, worship and Bible study ~ and so many amazing conversations ! We honoured straight allies who have been supporters for years, such as Bishop Herbert Chilstrom and his wife, and June Kjome, who describes herself as “an old lady activist” ~ a compassionate nurse, a peace activist, a woman of faith, an ally and a worker for justice. (See her book : Justice : Not Just Us)
I attended a series of training sessions on Biblical story telling, which was very interesting. An account of Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath, brought alive by “telling the story”, rather than just reading it. Another a session concentrated on learning to tell our story, briefly but in such a way that it testifies to God’s grace, love and goodness for LGBT people.
The most moving session was probably the Saturday worship service.
Last year (2009) the Evangelical Lutheran Church of North America passed two resolutions which were very important for LGBT people. However, because it had been a difficult time for some members of the Church, Lutherans Concerned had not felt it right to celebrate ~ so this year, after the main worship at Lutheran Central Church, attendees marched across the road, to the Convention Centre, where last year’s momentous Resolutions were passed. After prayers of thanksgiving, the sound of rejoicing began. Bells, whistles, tambourines, cheers and clapping marked the “celebration” of the changes agreed last year ~ which, for example mean that clergy in life-long, committed, same-gender relationships can now take a full part in ministry within the Evangelical Lutheran church.
The Assembly brings together members of churches that have been officially recognised as welcoming to LGBT people, through their Reconciled in Christ Programme. So I met with parents and friends who have been supporting and campaigning for full recognition of LGBT members of their congregations. I heard some amazing stories ~ of rejection and pain, followed by restoration and healing. I met early pioneers of LGBT rights, those who had been supportive despite their churches’ attitudes ! I met Pastor Anita Hill, whose ordination, in obedience to God’s call, but defiance of her denomination’s position, was so key to the movement towards full inclusion.
So, my Workshop about the Forum ~ it was attended by a small group of interested people, including clergy. I showed the updated Powerpoint presentation, talked about the Barelona Form and plans to develop further links with Eastern Europe. There were questions about the situation in several countries in Europe and next year’s gathering in Berlin. We discussed ways that the Forum could work with LCNA, including preparing worship resources for IDAHO 2011 and sharing materials for helping churches to develop a welcoming ethos.
There is much healing work to be done ~ one of the new initiatives, recognising the work ahead, focuses on making friends with people who have been hurt or confused by the changes. Building on existing programmes, churches want to become more welcoming of racial minorities, too. Altogether I feel that I was so blessed during my time there ~ I met such love and encouragement. ~ and it is possible that we may have guests from Lutherans Concerned next year ~ I do hope so. It would be really inspirational to hear first-hand news of these next few months.
“Restoration and reconciliation take time, and must be care filled”
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, LCNA