Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lutheran statement on human sexuality released - good news!

There was a buzz around div school this week as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) released a proposed statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust and recommendations for ministry policies, to be voted on at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in August. If you're interested, there's more in the statement regarding human sexuality than just same-sex ordination issues, so take a look.

There's no official statement on sexuality, but right now in the ELCA, single ordained ministers are supposed to be chaste; straight married ordained ministers must be monogomous and faithful to one another; queer ordained ministers are supposed to abstain from same-sex relationships.

Generally, however, one cannot be out while seeking ordination within the Lutheran church. One of my friends told me about a conversation he had with his ordination committee; the conversation started with the question "Are you gay?" and when he said no, they said good and continued on. I don't think that's the most pertinent question in considering someone's candidacy for ordination. I'm also in a GLBTQ Pastoral Care class this semester; the official name of the class had to be "Identity and Communities" because some denominations would not approve of a "GLBTQ" class name on a transcript.

In the proposal released this week, the Committee on Human Sexuality recommends a four step process, moving towards allowing congregations to have people in same-sex relationships on the offical ELCA rosters. However, if one resolution isn't approved, then the whole process stops. It's pretty much contingent on the approval of all of them.
Step One
Step one asks the assembly whether, in principle, it is committed to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

Step Two
Step two asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.

Step Three
Step three asks this church whether, in the future implementation of these commitments, it will make decisions so that all in this church bear the burdens of the other, and respect the bound consciences of all. This means that any solution that serves only the conscience-bound positions of one or another part of this church will not be acceptable.

Step Four
Step four proposes how this church can move toward change in a way that respects the bound consciences of all. It recognizes that such respect will lead to diversity of practice. However, the majority of the task force believes that the conscience-bound lack of consensus will be respected most faithfully by providing some structured flexibility in decision-making so that congregations and synods may choose whether or not to approve or call people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve on ELCA rosters.

In reaching this conclusion, the task force acknowledges that the existing policies and practices of this church give responsibility for decisions related to the approval or disapproval of candidates for rostered service or for a specific call to synodical call committees, bishops, and congregations. That is, individuals and groups are trusted to make these decisions. The task force also acknowledges that such decision-making takes place within a carefully determined process of mutual discernment by those seeking call and the representatives of this church.
Personally, I think sexual orientation has little to do with how a person leads a church congregation. This is good news for out and closeted GLBTQ people serving in positions of faithful leadership in the ELCA. Let's hope the recommendations by the task force end up getting approved this summer, and that some ELCA churches will stop using sexual orientation as a litmus test for ordination.

I wonder if Jesus made his disciples swear they were straight before asking them to join his posse. Aren't faithful Christians trying to be more like Jesus? Show me a verse where Jesus says we should deny church leadership based on a person's sexual orientation and I'll stop arguing for ordination for all.

Note: I'm not Lutheran so I could be getting some of the particulars wrong - leave a comment if I'm misreading this.


Colt said...

The thing is Jesus was Jewish."Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22;" So the concept was implied. And I am glad to see the church taking care of this instead of the government. I don't like it when the govt. tells religions what they can and can not do. The dissension of weather the church can or cannot allow same sex marriage is up to the religion not the govt.

Anonymous said...

As someone raised WELS Lutheran, and who has an uncle who is ordained in the ELCA (and an aunt in seminary), I'd have to say that this is pretty radical for any Lutheran church to do. Personally, I don't think it should be radical, and I think the whole optional acceptance thing is a CYA move, but's a step.

My big concern is that this is going to splinter the ELCA like crazy and pull the conservative Lutheran denoms even further from them, which is a concern. The conservative denoms could take a lesson from this, frankly, as they're getting stagnant.

(via Feministe)

lindsay said...

I'm not quite sure what those verses have to do with Jesus being against homosexuality... one could say that the presence of those verses in my scriptures implies that I'm against gay rights. I think those verses existed in particular cultural contexts and generally, as a society, it's hypocritical to expect people to follow certain levitical laws and not others, such as clothing laws and working on sunday.

Mike said...

The old levitical laws were meant in order to stay in God's favor. However, Christ's death and ressurection resulted in fulfillment of the old laws. Meaning, one doesn't have to follow those laws anymore because all that is required is the acceptance of Christ's gift of grace and salvation. Although, don't forget about Sodom and Gomorrah.

But there are New testament scriptures which deal with homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27) which clearly state that homosexulaity is unnatural. How should a homosexual minister preach on this? Do they simply ignore passages such as this and others like it? The Lutheran church ought to take a lesson from the current state of the Episcipal Church. They keep trying to dois same stuff and they are losing members in droves. If someone can reconcile being in a gay relationship and it being ok by God, I'd like to hear that argument.

tessarae said...

I grew up in an ELCA church and it was always pretty liberal in my experience. It's definitely one of the more liberal branches of Lutheranism, in my experience (at least in rural MN, where I grew up, we couldn't hold a candle to Missouri Synod in terms of conservatism!). But part of that might just be that the pastor we've always had has been very open and generous and always, always preaches love, rather than talking about ways to exclude anyone.

That said, this is a big step for them as a church and I'm pretty excited about it! I know my parents, who still attend that church, would be thrilled about these steps being included. But they've been taking steps toward this for awhile now, slowly but surely: