This is an example of why different denominations begin, and they typically involve a call to unity where true unity can’t exist.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday adopted a new social statement on human sexuality yesterday with exactly the two thirds votes it needed to pass in their 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” the denomination’s tenth social statement, was passed on a 676-338 vote that met the two-thirds vote requirement on the dot.
The statement – which emphasizes two principles, trust and bound conscience – addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective, including social structures, cohabitation, sexual exploitation, abuse, and homosexuality, the latter of which has drawn the most attention and controversy.
Homosexuality is no longer a sin (albeit in a “committed monogamous relationship”), that will be addressed by the whole ELCA. The statement that was passed reads in part:
This church recognizes that, with conviction and integrity:
- On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law. They believe same-gender sexual behavior carries the grave danger of unrepentant sin. They therefore conclude that the neighbor and the community are best served by calling people in same-gender sexual relationships to repentance for that behavior and to a celibate lifestyle. Such decisions are intended to be accompanied by pastoral response and community support.
- On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that homosexuality and even lifelong, monogamous, homosexual relationships reflect a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended. While they acknowledge that such relationships may be lived out with mutuality and care, they do not believe that the neighbor or community are best served by publicly recognizing such relationships as traditional marriage.
- On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and lifelong loving and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are honored and held to high standards and public accountability, but they do not equate these relationships with marriage. They do, however, affirm the need for community support and the role of pastoral care, and may wish to surround lifelong monogamous relationships or covenant unions with prayer.
- On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage. They surround such couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others. They believe same-gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children and other dependents, and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.
Although at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter, it encourages all people to live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor. This church calls for mutual respect in relationships and for guidance that seeks the good of each individual and of the community. Regarding our life together as we live with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect.
This statement attempts to manufacture unity where none can really exist. There was celebration after the vote was announced, and the celebration was celebrated. One commenter at a local ELCA youth director’s blog hoped that a similar vote would take place in the United Methodist Church in 2012.
Another local ELCA youth director, Erik Ullestad, said that Lutherans (and I’ll clarify that as meaning ELCA, as some of my Missouri Synod friends would dispute this) fall into one three groups regarding homosexuality: #1 scripture says no, #2 scripture says yes (which you have to do hermeneutical gymnastics to come to that position), and #3 scripture isn’t the only authority. He then says:
From my perspective, the group that is "most Lutheran" is #3. Lutherans believe that Scripture is inspired by God and functions as the "source and norm" for our spiritual lives. Scripture is instructive and faith-formative. It does not, however, stand alone as authoritative. Luther indicated that three things – grace, faith and Scripture – provide guidance and wisdom to the church. All three "solas" are gifts of God that carry equal weight and importance.
While I agree that all are a gift of God. However, what is written in scripture informs the other two. Where do we learn about grace? How do we even know what we are to place faith in? Not diminishing grace or faith by any means, but to abandon scripture as the complete revelation of his will for salvation and the ultimate authority by which we judge human knowledge and endeavors leads you down a slippery slope.
Can I submit that the reason this measure passed on Wednesday is because there has already been a slide away from scriptural authority and many champions for it have already abandoned the ELCA? Locally I know of a large Lutheran church that left the ELCA years before this. They saw it coming. It’s been coming for years.
After the applause of those who voted for this measure dies down they will be faced with the 1/3 who didn’t vote for this. Those who are not celebrating because they recognize what this will ultimately do to their denomination. The three dissenting members of the ELCA Task Force on Sexuality wrote:
We contend that the recommendations proposed in Report and Recommendations, which advocate same-gender unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons, have little biblical, historical, or traditional support. The proposed recommendations advocate a radical departure from long-held moral tradition and biblical interpretation, thus distancing us further from the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches, evangelical churches and most of the churches in the Protestant mainstream….
….The ELCA is a church deeply divided on the issue of human sexuality. The recommendations of the majority of the task force represent a radical change that not only is contrary to Scripture and the apostolic faith, but is one that will splinter our congregations, alienate many of our members, further divide the unity of this church and, we believe, grieve the heart of God.
Apparently this will just pave the way for ordination of people in “open and committed” same-sex relationships. This will be decided tomorrow. Justin Wise wrote, “To the best of my understanding, the proposed policies are how the statement will be enacted throughout the denomination. The what was voted on today, that being the statement on sexuality, ‘Gift & Trust’.”
How did God celebrate this decision? A tornado. I’m not one who believes that every natural disaster is a sign of God’s wrath, but we shouldn’t rule it out either (those who do usually dismiss the idea of the wrath of God to begin with).
True unity centers itself in the Word and Person of Jesus Christ. Not in human understanding, reasoning or misguided sense of “what is fair.”
Update: From the NY Times: the ELCA does approve same-sex clergy.
By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)
That was just a foregone conclusion after Wednesday’s vote. The ELCA now joins with the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church in ordaining active homosexuals.