Don't expect any major decisions regarding human sexuality to emerge this weekend in Milwaukee from a gathering of more than 1,000 leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The denomination's biennial Churchwide Assembly isn't due to make recommendations until 2005 on whether to bless same-gender relationships or allow people of such relationships to be pastors. The assembly's agenda is filled with other pressing issues that have to be addressed, such as the election of a new vice president for the denomination, the presentation of a vision for evangelism and the church's social statement on health and health care in the United States.
"We already decided two years ago to not make a decision on these (sexuality) issues until 2005. For us to make any decisions related to the blessing of same-sex unions or the approval of ordination of individuals who are homosexual and in committed relationships would be premature," Kevin Boatright, a Lawrence resident who is attending the assembly that ends Sunday, said in a telephone interview.
"We are a denomination that is in full communion with the Episcopal church, and what happened at the Episcopal Church gathering is significant to us. But clearly what we will do in the ELCA are decisions of the ELCA."
Boatright, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H., is attending the assembly in an advisory role. He is not a voting member at the event. Boatright serves as chair of the church's Division for Ministry Board, a national body of the church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has 5.1 million members and is the fourth-largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
Another Lawrence resident, Ellie Pedersen, a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 2211 Inverness Drive, is attending the event as a delegate. She is a member of the Church Council for the Central States Synod, to which Lawrence-area Evangelical Lutheran churches belong.
Pedersen would like to see the denomination address issues of homosexuality directly -- sooner rather than later.
"One of the things that will be coming up on the assembly floor for discussion and possible decision making is a question concerning the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) community. At the last Churchwide Assembly, it was voted to study and take a vote in 2005 concerning the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordaining of homosexuals living in committed relationships," Pedersen said in a telephone interview.
"We know that there is an effort underfoot to delay that vote. Some of us are working hard to do whatever we can to not delay the vote. We think this is an issue that's been delayed too long, and we want it to come to a vote at the next churchwide (meeting) in 2005."