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Montana Synod in Detroit!
Words from the Bishop- "Rise Up Together"
As you read this, over 30,000 ELCA Lutherans, most of them under 20, will be gathering in Detroit. Every three years the ELCA puts on a massive effort to bring together high school students from across the country into one location for an experience of service, community and witness. Two hundred fifty from the Montana Synod are there. Eighty decided to go on buses organized by Associate to the Bishop Pastor Jason Asselstine. Those two bus loads of students and their chaperones will have already bonded by the time they reach Detroit.
How might congregations respond to same-sex marriage?
In late 2014, same-sex marriage became legal in both Wyoming and Montana. And in June of 2015, the Supreme Court made it legal in all of the United States. Nothing has changed for people in Montana or Wyoming since last year. But the highly-publicized Supreme Court decision and reactions around the country have brought the issue forward again for many people.
It is important to distinguish between church and state. The Supreme Court ruling means that states may not discriminate. That is now the law. But the First Amendment is still in effect in the US. Neither the courts nor the states can force congregations to perform or host weddings for anyone. All the ruling means is that states can no longer refuse to grant licenses to same-sex couples. It does not force churches to do anything.
But since the issue is in the news again, some congregations are wondering what they might do in response. I have been asked what is happening in other states, particularly where same-sex marriage has been legal longer. I have consulted with colleagues in other synods, and thank them for their input. Here are some options that congregations have adopted:
Congregation A: has had respectful, intentional conversations at their Council meeting. Result: We will allow for same-sex weddings both inside our building and off-site, as the pastor sees fit.
Congregation B: We will not allow for same-sex weddings in our congregation. The pastor is unwilling, and that ends the discussion.
Congregation C: We will do what we have always done here—we will leave the decision of who to marry to the discernment of our pastors. We have never demanded names of couples who desire to be married to come to the Council, and we don’t intend to start doing it. We’ll have a congregational forum for further discussion.
Congregation D: We consider ourselves to be a congregation where differences of opinion are welcome. We will continue to allow our pastor to make decisions on weddings on site or off-site.
Congregation E: Yes, by vote of Council and by vote of congregation.
Congregation F: No, by vote of Council and by vote of congregation.
Congregation G: No, in our building. OK if off-site.
Congregation H: Do nothing and hope it all goes away.
Congregation I: Set a date to begin discussion.
There are no doubt many other options. And what your congregation decides now does not have to be forever. Do what you do with intentionality and integrity, don’t trample on anyone, and remember to leave room for the Holy Spirit.
Montana Synod Strategic Benchmarks
Our Mission: "Marked by the cross of Christ forever, abundantly blessed, we faithfully serve God and neighbor."
Our Vision: "Every person a witness, Every minister equipping witness, Every congregation and ministry, empowered for witness, serving faithfully."
The Montana Synod will measure its own faithfulness to our mission and vision and to the task of providing leadership to the Montana Synod by the following benchmarks:
1. Meet the future boldly.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:11-13)
We will take risks for the sake of the Gospel, remembering that Jesus said that whoever wants to save your life will lose it, and the only way to be a disciple is to pick up a cross and follow. We will learn from our conversations with congregations and we will model faithful, visionary ministry that is more prophetic than safe.