Not on the fence. But yet stuck in the middle.

It has been a long day, and a long few days at this summer's ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The biggest (though perhaps not the most important) issue to be discussed: the ordination of those in committed, same-sex relationships, and the church's ability to choose to recognize and affirm those relationships.

I won't lie. I have a particular viewpoint on those issues. I'm not going to pretend that my mind and heart don't have an opinion.

But that doesn't mean that I think clearly about the issue. It doesn't mean that I think that my viewpoint is obvious, nor do I claim that I have the corner on God's will. It doesn't mean that I take the Bible any more or less seriously than those who differ in opinion from me, and it doesn't mean that I don't have my own reservations or doubts about the opinion that I hold.

What it means is that, while I am not on the fence about the issue, I yet find myself stuck in the middle. Maybe it means that, while I have an opinion, I am not called to advocate for it. I rather feel that my contribution to the conversation and to my denomination is to be a voice of calm and understanding, to be a force for peace and unity, to be concerned with the heartache and struggle that have ensued on all sides of the issue. There are plenty of people doing meaningful work, advocating for the various sides of the issues. I don't think that the ELCA needs me to be one of those people.

I think that the ELCA needs me to pray for its pastors and congregations. I think that the ELCA needs me to feel joy with those who are feeling joy and to feel sorrow with those who are feeling sorrow. I think that the ELCA needs me to hang out in the midst of the complexities that led to this assembly, and to the new complexities that have been created by the vote.

I have followed the debate and voting today on Twitter and Facebook. I have read numerous blog posts and news articles, some more biased than others. And I have felt discouraged. I have been saddened by so much of what has been said on either side, demonizing those with whom they disagree, speaking from a position of certainty and self-righteousness rather than humility and grace, threats and fear-mongering and propaganda.

I am far less concerned with the outcome of the vote, and far more concerned with the way that the ELCA member churches, as well as all those Christian churches with whom we work ecumenically, choose to treat one another. Schism would be the obvious and easy way out. Instead, I can hope and pray that the Spirit will move among us and help to unite the church - the body of Christ - even in our disagreements. I can hope and pray that we can move beyond this issue and spend more time and energy on preaching God's good news of grace and salvation to a broken world, and spend more time feeding the hungry, lifting up the poor, working for justice and peace, seeking the health and wholeness of all those in need, and proclaiming a gospel not of fear but of hope, not of law but of grace, not of division, but unity in Christ.


  1. Jennifer Knight8:32 PM

    Amen - beautifully stated. I'm so proud and glad to know that you have followed your heart and become a wonderfully wise voice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  2. Well said, Melissa. Unfortunately, I do not today's vote is the beginning of a schism that we can choose or not choose to have; rather, I think it is the beginning of the final act of schism that began growing long ago.

  3. Indeed, this is the time when we all need to hear the Good News!
    Thanks for your peaceful reminder of the true issue here for us newly ordained. That we are called to be companions with all on the journey, without showing deference for a particular side.
    I too have strong personal feelings on this particular issue. It will take a lot of prayerful and intentional thought for me --- which is, as you know, not my norm.
    Thanks for sharing, Melissa.

  4. Thanks Mel. I needed to be reminded of that. I am feeling such mixed emotions today and I hope we choose the harder path of staying together.

  5. Hi there--thank you so much for this. I'm grateful that you and others are attending to the need for calm, prayerful conversation. I try to do this, too, though it's harder for me to seem neutral because I myself am gay. It's my deeply-held hope that these are birth pangs of a new era of understanding in the ELCA, and that our public "face" while that happens helps to chart a new course of conversation for the country.

  6. spreading the gospel of hope and not fear... i hope for that too in the elca and other church bodies... fear is so contrary to faith and yet it boggles us up at every turn. trying also to be calm, unanxious, discerning and faithful...