Okay, the timing may not be quite as mind-bogglingly dumb as when the ELCA promoted "Central American Week 1989" and encouraged pastors and congregations to focus on the death of the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero while the Church Calendar was directing us to observe Holy Week and Easter. Unless, of course, there turns out to be something interesting in this First Draft and local reporters start contacting nearby ELCA pastors for comments.
A seminary classmate serving as an ELCA pastor in Southern California has an interesting idea. He writes:
I am ridiculously trying to see if we can get the ELCA to postpone the release of the new sexuality draft to AFTER Easter. This is an action that has NO concern for the content. Right now the new draft is scheduled for release to the media the Wednesday before Holy Week. I wrote Rebecca Larson who is the director of Church and Society and got the following email (see below). If you concur that it would be better to release this AFTER Easter I invite you to send and email to Pastor Larson, Bishop Hanson and your local Bishop. Here are the points I have.And then he gives the public e-mail addresses for Dr. Larson, the ELCA's Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, and an assistant to Bishop Hanson. I won't quote Dr. Larson's full letter to my friend. She assures him that
---Easter is one of the biggest evangelism days for many of our congregations; we work hard to be especially inviting and centered on the good news for our many guests and seekers. I can tell you without doubt that negative media exploitation of this study will in my context turn people away from our parish.
---Parish pastors work extremely hard during Holy Week and the weeks before in preparation. If there is negative media exploitation upon the release of this study and this adds to the stress, hours and work load of clergy, it will be received as as big a blunder as the October '93 incident.
---I realize there can be no way to anticipate how the media will respond to the release of this draft. However, we all know the possibility of headlines taken out of context and small portions of a document used for sensationalism. Why would we risk alienating our own people the week before the holiest time of the year? I have to say in my context 'brand' loyalty is not strong, and such potential negative publicity would impact our parish tremendously.
If you think the above points are worthy of postponing the release of this document to the press by a week and a half, please add your email voice to mine. Also please feel free to pass this on to any ELCA clergy that you think might be interested.
...the decision for the timing of the release was very carefully considered and had to take into consideration many factors including the ones that you raise. ... I do now need to say that, while it may not be ideal, the timeline that we have is the one that we will be using. At the same time I am confident that pastors and congregations will use the theological and liturgical context of Holy Week to assist this church to engage in whatever comes before us that week, including this draft on human sexuality.Yeah, Jesus died so I can comment on what the ELCA Task Force thinks this church ought to say about sexuality.
I think my friend is on to something. What could possibly be lost by delaying the release a couple of weeks until after Easter?