We’re back in Orlando. I was here in 2005 with scores of Goodsoil volunteers who came to witness as LGBTQ people and allies who were members of this church. I was just coming back to the Lutheran church at that time, and newly involved in the movement for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the Lutheran church.
A lot has changed since 2005. As I walk down the hallways to the plenary sessions, I remember standing there with a Stoles Project stole. I wore Rev. Jane Ralph’s stole the first day. I hadn’t met her before that. A year later, she would become part of the team that hired me as development director of Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries (a forerunner of ELM). The clearest memory I had of that experience was the way people wanted to look at anything but us when they walked down the hallway. Then came the plenary where we moved as a group to witness silently on the floor of the assembly. It was hard for the Church to ignore us after that.
This assembly is similar in so many ways to the others I’ve attended since 2005. The layout, the speeches, the agendas, and even some of the speakers have become familiar. Here’s one major difference: For many years, so many of us suffered the pain of attending amazing worship services where preachers, bible passages, songs and litanies called for justice, and yet ignored LGBTQ people. As LGBTQ people and our allies, we felt invisible and betrayed by the church we loved.
It is a gift this Churchwide Assembly to experience the ELCA as we live into the changes made in 2009. In his opening sermon and address to the Assembly, Bp. Mark Hanson spoke out for the inclusion of LGBT people. Others in worship have voiced their support for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. While many of us have experienced a welcome far beyond these initial steps for many years in our own congregations, it was a first for me at the Churchwide Assembly.
We are all living into the future together as members of the ELCA. As LGBTQ people, we know we have always been freed in Christ to serve. It is a joy to now experience that within the ELCA as well. I give thanks for the many members of our community who attended so many painful Churchwide assemblies and who worked so hard to bring us to today. You are with us in spirit. In looking back, we are living forward.