Rules of procedure? Do I hear yawns? It’s probably a worthy response to a rather esoteric topic. (And don’t worry, I’m not getting too esoteric.) As the Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted it’s rules tonight, a couple of important things happened with respect to the issues of ministry by gay and lesbian persons. First, an attempt to require a 2/3 majority for passage on the votes concerning allowing blessings of same-sex relationships and ordination of individuals in a same-sex relationship was defeated. Soundly. Over 57% of the voting members voted against the 2/3 rule. The proposals will only be required to be passed by a simple majority. This makes their passage possible.

Second, a proposal to include the step-wise consideration of 4 proposals was defeated. The task force on sexuality had originally proposed that these four resolutions be voted on sequentially, with consideration of each dependent on the passage of the previous question. The ELCA’s church council, however, decided that could introduce significant complications because the proposed resolutions could be amended or changed to something else entirely. So they passed them along to the Churchwide Assembly as four separate resolutions to be dealt with independently. (This was something I had missed along the way, so I got it wrong in my post late last week.) A member of the assembly proposed we go back to the task force’s recommendation of procedure.  That proposed rule was defeated with over 58% of the voting members against it.

This means a couple of things for the analysis I gave last week. First, it means that the potential road block that possible lower support for blessings of same-sex relationships might have put in the way of ordination policy changes is resolved as a matter of rules and procedure.  Of course, it doesn’t mean that this would not play a role in the decision of how individuals may vote on ordination policy recommendations. It simply means that the questions of blessings might not get in the way or the question of ordination being taken up by the assembly.

Further, it indicates that the assembly is unwilling to have procedural roadblocks (and that is precisely what these rule proposals were) put in its way over these matters. The wide support for majority passage suggests that there might well be a majority either ready to vote to ordain gay and lesbian pastors and/or allow congregations and pastors to bless same-sex unions, or willing to allow it to happen even if they will vote “no” on these proposals.

The chances for a change in the ELCA’s policies with respect to same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian clergy have gotten greater tonight.

An interesting week begins.