Central Lutheran to vote on ELCA stand Friday, 06 November 2009
by Bob Grawey Staff writer
Three weeks ago the Rev. Paul Johansson of Central Lutheran Church said he has no comment as to where his church stood on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA) vote to allow gay clergy who were in committed same-sex relationships. Sunday, Nov. 8, that will change.
According to parishioner John Froelich, the church will vote this Sunday on whether or not to leave the ELCA. But Froelich contends the outcome will be illegal since the church did not follow Robert’s Rules on Conduct which is part of Central’s own constitution.
Froelich contends that in four separate church forums to discuss the issue of gay clergy, parishioners did not have ample time for discussion. “The (pastoral) staff spoke for over an hour in the forum I was at, and we only got three minutes each,” Froelich says. “After three minutes they turned the microphone off on me.” Froelich, who holds a Ph.D and conducts a lot of research, is angered that church leadership has not allowed what he considers open discussion.
He adds that three minutes is long enough to voice an opinion, but not nearly long enough to build an argument for or against something.Johansson has been specific, according to Froelich, in his sermons to the congregation that the ELCA had violated biblical scripture in allowing gay clergy that are in same-sex, committed relationships.In response, the academician, who disagrees with Johansson, has gathered arguments on the issue of gay clergy from other academics and scholars on both sides of the issue. He has built a Web site around these arguments and is hoping it will give people a chance to research the issue for themselves before Sunday’s vote.
Froelich is part of a group of 40 to 100 people who want to keep Central Lutheran from leaving the ELCA. He does admit, though, that he has bias in favor of the ELCA’s decision to allow gay clergy in his denomination. Documents supporting gay clergy and documents against it are 60-to-40 on his Web site. In addition, he says it is easier to access information that supports the ELCA vote. One click opens a pro-ELCA vote for gay clergy, while it takes two clicks to another Web site to access material that speaks against such a vote.Both sides of the argument are fairly accessible, though, and the site has been getting an average of 75 visitors a day since it first got up and running two weeks ago.
A bishop from the Minneapolis Synod was denied the opportunity to address the Central congregation. However, it is unclear if such a move was viewed as a strong-arm tactic by the synod, or if it was simply a chance to explain further why the ELCA made the decision to accept openly gay clergy.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s vote, the path for Central Lutheran may get a bit unsteady if a resolution cannot be found in an issue that seems to divide a church staff and its congregation.