Report from the Soulforce Action at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando

Soulforce was proud to partner with Goodsoil at the biennial Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Orlando, August 8-14, 2005. Karen Weldin, Bill Carpenter and others from Soulforce worked diligently with a planning team from all over the country and were joined in Orlando by courageous souls who were eager to do justice. Soulforce, and the other organizations within the Goodsoil alliance, vigiled and gave out leaflets as a powerful witness to the lives that are damaged by unjust Lutheran policies.

On Friday, August 12, 2005, nearly the entire day was used to consider recommendations from the Sexuality Task Force Report of the ELCA.

An amendment that would have given pastors explicit permission to bless same-sex unions failed. Instead, a more ambiguous measure was approved that maintains the ELCA ban on same-sex blessing ceremonies, but says that the church will "trust" pastors and congregations "to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care" to everyone. Some believe the vote leaves the door open for same-sex blessings by Bishops who are supportive.

Next, the assembly rejected a proposal to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained as members of the clergy. When the recommendation failed, Soulforce delegates joined Goodsoil as approximately 100 people walked silently to the front of the hall, stood before the stage where Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was overseeing the meeting and faced the assembly of 1,018 voting members. The group stood quietly for over two hours and did not leave when asked by the Bishop. The action created tension within the hall. Some voting members were angered while others spoke out in tearful and heartfelt support. Pastor Paul Tideman (a voting member of the ELCA) requested that Pastor Anita Hill address the assembly, but the request was denied. Through our nonviolent resistance, the voting members and the visitors in the hall were forced to see our resolve: the church belongs to us, we are not going away, and we demand full and equal participation.

Goodsoil, an alliance of six organizations including Soulforce, issued a statement accusing the church of "sacrificing" gay men and women "on the altar of a false and ephemeral sense of unity." For more detailed information about the action, please go to www.goodsoil.org.

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