Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's the Geography, Stupid!

During Clinton's run for the White House, there was the "War Room" in which Carville (manager) had the sign up "It's the economy, stupid," in order to keep the focus (laser like) on what mattered for winning the race against George H. W. Bush.

For the ELCA, the fight over LGBTQ ordination was not only the study documents that they had (and we have too in the PCUSA), but also geography! In an article by John Dart in the Christian Century, Dart contends that geography had a large part to play in the change in the ELCA. The focus? Midwesterners versus the Bible-belt South. ELCA does not have to contend with the Bible belt, while we of the PCUSA and United Methodists do:

In an interview, Cadge noted that the PCUSA and UMC have met strong resistance from conservative churches in the Bible Belt—in contrast to the ELCA, which is concentrated in the upper Midwest—and that the ELCA came to the homosexuality debate late partly because the denomination was formed, by merger, only in 1988.

United Methodists are not likely to adopt inclusive policies soon, primarily because of geography. "The UMC has almost 40 percent of its membership outside the United States, and our U.S. membership is concentrated in the Bible Belt," said Troy Plummer, executive director of the gay-supportive Reconciling Ministries Network.

Timing has been another factor. Plum mer praised ELCA activists in the Good Soil coalition for being "exceptionally well organized" during this decade when public opinion has shifted leftward and a growing number of states have approved of same-sex civil unions and marriage.

Plummer said efforts of conservative advocacy groups in the ELCA seemed to fall short of the opposition conservative renewal groups mounted in the 1980s and 1990s against changes proposed by liberal United Methodists and Presbyterians. "The PCUSA and Methodists were fighting and losing more battles," he said, and this perhaps helped to solidify opposing stances.

Only 32 percent of clergy in the UMC in the U.S. said they support ordination of gays and lesbians, compared to 50 percent in the PCUSA and 54 percent in the ELCA, according to the 2008 Clergy Voices Survey taken by Public Religion Research. Asked if they support the inclusion of gays and lesbians in lay leadership, 51 percent of Methodist clergy said yes, whereas 64 percent of PCUSA ministers and 80 percent of ELCA pastors expressed approval.

The 2008 Presbyterian General Assembly voted to allow gay clergy, but the action did not get the required two-thirds approval from the 173 regional presbyteries. Advocates were cheered, however, when the no votes were fewer than in previous failed attempts.

Of all the recorded votes by elders and ministers in the presbyteries, 49 percent were yes votes, according to the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. "It is clear [that] change is coming to the church," said the group's board in a statement. "The conversation continues."

Click here for the entire article.

Many of us from the northern United Presby. Church USA wondered what would be the results of a merger with the PCUS, our Southern kin strung out along the Bible belt of the South. Question: would the UPCUSA have ordained openly LGBTQ people by now if it were still a denomination of more northern and western churches?




1 comment:

manxxman said...

I feel so defeated by the thought that people just "plain don't like me".......why bother is how I feel.