The Aura of Decorah: On July 11 about 80 people assembled on the steps of the Winneshiek County Courthouse in Decorah, Iowa for the wedding of Amalia Joann Vagts and David Vaughn Lester. Amalia is a good friend of ours and Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM). Pr. Erik Christensen of St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago offciated. Pr. Christensen is co-chair of the ELM Covenant Circle.
On the courthouse steps on a beautiful summer day, even without the benefit of a Eucharist, the ceremony was indelibly Lutheran. Pr. Christensen preached about the counter-intuitive qualities of Grace. Pr. Daniel Ruen (of Grace Lutheran in Evanston, Illinois) contributed a song titled Who Could Stand with the refrain:
If sins were counted, who could stand up?
Who could carry on?
Who could pick themselves up from the road and start again?

Amalia and David are well-known and well-liked in Decorah, but then it seemed to us that everyone is well-known and well-liked in Decorah. We ducked into Amundson's to look for a suitably festive shirt and learned that the groom would be wearing a khaki suit purchased on the premises.
In the evening about 250 people gathered at the Elks' Lodge for a festive reception. (The bride is an Elk.) David Zollo and the Body Electric offered generous sets of dance-able, heartfelt music. Between sets the younger guests took turns whacking a distinctly Nordic-looking (and almost indestructible) pinata.
As the band rolled into its second set, Bishop Thorald "Wally" Noe-Effingway (Central Great Lakes Synod) was seen on the edge of the dance floor deep in conversation with Lutheran Volunteer Corps. (LVC) Executive Director Mike Wilker. An eavesdropper reported hearing only the phrases "God's Work, Our Hands™" (perhaps a reference to the ELCA video contest) and "abstinence" (perhaps a reference to Bishop Noe-Effingway's 2007 "Abstinence" Pastoral Letter).
Throughout the weekend there were more than the usual number of same-sex couples ambling through downtown, and Decorah made sure that everyone felt right at home.

Between Voting and Meaning: At the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church delegates approved an item known as D025 which reads in part:
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;

Having adopted D025, however, there was no consenus on what that adoption meant.
In 2006, the General Convention approved
B033 which pledged to
exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
B033 was a response to the global Anglican community's misgivings over the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, a partnered gay man.
Some observers understood D025 to relax the conditions imposed by B033. Others do not, and the Episcopal Church's presiding officers


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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.

    (Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson have distributed a letter of clarification to Archbishop Rowan Williams:
    We understand Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature—a statement that reaffirms commitments already made by The Episcopal Church and that acknowledges certain realities of our common life. Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years...
    Some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033. That is not the case. This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.

    On the last day of the General Convention, an amended version of resolution C056 was approved. As passed, C056 acknowledges "changing circumstances" that call for a renewed pastoral response from the church for considering same-gender blessings and declares that :
    bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.
    In addition, the House of Bishops and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) are to devise an open process to invite church-wide participation in collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies for blessing same-gender relationships.
    In debate, it was noted that C056 does not address the heterosexual definition of marriage in the church's canons.

    Deadline for the Non-Germane: The proposed schedule for the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly has been released. Our readers will be pleased to note that the proposed deadline for non-germane resolutions is Thursday, August 20 at 11:15AM.
    Other highlights include:
    Adoption of Rules of Organization and Procedure and Adoption of the Order of Business during Plenary Session 1, Monday August 17, 7:30PM - 9:30PM (or possibly later, depending on the will of the assembly).
    Introduction: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Committee of the Whole: Social Statement in Plenary Session 2, Tuesday August 18, 8:00AM - 11:00AM.
    Hearings on the Social Statement, the Ministry Policies Recommendation, and Full Communion with the United Methodist Church, Tuesday August 18, 4:30PM - 5:30PM and 7:00PM - 8:00PM. (Note that there are separate hearings for the social statement and the ministry policies recommendations.)
    Deadline for amendments to Ministry Policy Recommendation, Wednesday August 19, 11:15AM.
    Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Introduction: Ministry Policy Recommendations, Plenary Session 5, Wednesday August 19, 2:00PM - 5:45PM.
    Committee of the Whole: Ministry Policies Recommendation Plenary Session 6, Thursday August 20, 8:00AM-9:30AM (small groups), 9:45AM - 11:00AM (plenary).
    Consideration: Full-Communion Agreement with The United Methodist Church, Plenary Session 7, Thursday August 20, 2:00PM - 5:45PM.
    Consideration: Ministry Policies Recommendation, Plenary Session 8, Friday August 21, 8:00AM - 11:00AM.
    Consideration: Ministry Policies Recommendation, Plenary Session 9, Friday August 21, 2:00PM - 5:30PM.
    We understand that at least one group of West Coast Lutherans is planning cocktail parties to coincide with significant events in the assembly. We hope they're taking time off work and have chosen designated drivers.

    Hate Crime Verdict: On July 16, a jury in Syracuse, New York found 20-year-old Dwight DeLee guilty of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime in the killing of LaTeisha Green, a transgender woman. LaTeisha Green was murdered on November 14, 2008. In the United States only two "hate crime" verdicts have been rendered for crimes that resulted in the death of a transgender victim. DeLee will be sentenced August 18.
    On July 11, First English Lutheran Church in Syracuse, New York was the site of a community memorial for LaTeisha Green. The four-hour memorial was organized by her family and a coalition of community groups. A representative of the church said that the congregation was "honored" to hold the memorial service in their sanctuary, and to have the opportunity to show that the church is a safe space for the LGBT community.

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