ELCA Receives Sexuality Task Force and Recommendations
I'll reproduce the official press release from the ELCA below, but today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released its official recommendation for a "social statement on sexuality." In it the task force that prepared it recommends several resolutions that would enact the full inclusion of openly homosexual men and women as pastors and other church workers in the ELCA.
The first resolution calls on the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this summer to "make a decision" on the fundamental question: do we, or don't we, on the question of "monogamous, life-long homosexual relationships" for their pastors and other rostered workers. Now, you might say, "OK, fine, they just reject that, then, no problem."
But here is the problem. The ELCA's Church Council a couple months ago, set in place a rule that would require only a simple majority vote on these issues, with no further churchwide ratification and not even a 2/3 majority vote. In other words, game over. The last ELCA Assembly, by a simple majority, placed a moratorium on any disciplinary measures for openly homosexual persons on their roster.
As one of my good ELCA pastor friends just said on another forum, a week ago he predicted this kind of strategy: call for loving acceptance of all diverse opinions, allow for 'local options' and then simply say that none of this need divide them as a Church. He then added: "I'm grieving that as of today the end-game of the
ELCA as a National Church may have been officially set in motion." I share his grief.
February 19, 2009
ELCA Task Force Releases 'Human Sexuality: Gift And Trust'
CHICAGO (ELCA) — The 15-member Task Force for the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on
Sexuality released Feb. 19 "Human Sexuality: Gift and
Trust" — a proposed social statement on human sexuality.
The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly — the chief
legislative body of the church — is expected to consider
the social statement for adoption as an official statement
Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.
The proposed statement addresses a spectrum of concerns
relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective. It
responds to the question: "How do we understand human
sexuality within the context of Jesus' invitation to love
God and love our neighbor?" If adopted by the assembly, the
social statement will assist the ELCA in its moral
deliberation, govern its institutional policies and guide
the church's public advocacy work.
While the document does not offer once-and-for-all
answers to contemporary questions about sexuality, it "seeks
to tap the deep roots of Scripture and the Lutheran theological
tradition" for Lutherans to discern what is "responsible and
faithful action," according to the proposed statement.
The document contains sections on key Lutheran principles,
trust and human sexuality, social structures that enhance trust,
sexuality and trust in relationships, sexuality and social
responsibility, and a series of resolutions to incorporate
the statement into the mission and ministry of the ELCA.
"Sexuality has to do with relationships, and God has made
us relational beings," said the Rev. Rebecca S. Larson,
executive director, ELCA Church in Society.
"The underlying question of this social statement,
therefore, is what makes right relationship. Our model is
God's unfailingly, trustworthy relationship with people and
creation. No human relationship can thrive without trust.
The social statement therefore considers all human
relationships and social structures in light of what fosters
trust, commitment and protection for those who are vulnerable,"
The call for trust is woven into the proposed statement's
discourse about marriage, same-gender relationships, family
and children, commitment in relationships, adult cohabitation,
society, public ministry and more.
On the topic of marriage the document states that the
historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions
recognize marriage as a covenant between a woman and a man.
In recent decades the church has begun to understand "in new
ways" the need of same-gender couples who seek relationships
of "lifelong companionship and commitment as well as public
accountability and legal support for those commitments," said
The proposed statement acknowledges that "consensus does
not exist" among ELCA members on how to "honor" committed
same-sex relationships. The statement reflects differing
conclusions on the basis of biblical and theological
interpretation. Some members believe homosexuality is a sin
in their understanding of biblical teaching and natural law,
and some members believe homosexuality "reflects a broken
world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves
after the creation God intended."
Some Lutherans believe same-gender relationships are to
be "honored and held to high standards and public
accountability" but do not equate these relationships with
marriage, and some believe that same-gender relationships are
to be held to the same "rigorous standards, sexual ethics
and status as heterosexual marriage," said the statement.
Despite the varying viewpoints, the church encourages
all people to live out their faith with "profound respect for
the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor," said the
The document calls on congregations to be safe places for
children and youth, and it calls for education on human
sexuality for children and youth.
"Degrees of physical intimacy should be carefully matched
to degrees of growing affection and commitment," stated the
document. For this reason, the document calls the church to
oppose "non-monogamous, promiscuous or casual sexual
The statement addresses the topic of the value of
friendship, adult cohabitation, and Lutheran opposition of
sexual exploitation within and outside the church. It also
asks that justice for women in church and society continue
to be an important dimension of Lutheran response.
"When approved, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust will be
the 10th social statement of the ELCA," said Larson. "All
social statements are developed through at least a five-year
process in a broadly participatory way."
"Human sexuality infuses all of life from the time we
are born until the time we die. It is also social. Economics,
business and advertising, social roles, medicine and science
are all relevant to human sexuality and the ways we act in
relationship to others. How to use this gift in a way that
honors God and serves the neighbor is a critical issue,
particularly in this culture," Larson said.
A draft of the social statement was given to ELCA members
in March 2008 for study, review and feedback.
Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust "reflects what the task
force heard from this church in response to the draft social
statement," said Larson.
"The theological section has been both focused and
expanded. The role of God in creation and the role of law in
our lives has been made more prominent. There is more material
on how Lutherans approach social ethics from a perspective of
faith. The order of the sections has been changed to deal
with the intersection between the individual and social aspects
of human sexuality," she said. "Also, it is 1 thousand words
Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust completes a directive from
the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to develop a social statement
on human sexuality.
The task force also released a "Report and Recommendation
on Ministry Policies" to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly regarding
the professional leadership of the church on Feb. 19. This
document completes a directive from the 2007 assembly to address
and make recommendations on changes to policies that preclude
Lutherans in committed, same-gender relationships from the ELCA's
The proposed social statement and the report and
recommendation on ministry policies are two separate documents.
They are open to review by the ELCA Church Council — the
39;s board of directors — and will be considered by the
2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
- – -
"Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" is available at
http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog