August 20th, 2009
Today the Lutheran convention voted 676 to 338 to adopt a new social statement of sexuality, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. This was exactly the two-thirds required for passage of the statement.
The statement specifies:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10: 6–9: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”
But it also seeks to address the public accountability and legal support for “lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships.”
We in the ELCA recognize that many of our sisters and brothers in same-gender relationships incerely desire the support of other Christians for living faithfully in all aspects of their lives, including their sexual fidelity. In response, we have drawn deeply on our Lutheran theological heritage and Scripture. This has led, however, to differing and conscience-bound understandings about the place of such relationships within the Christian community. We have come to various conclusions concerning how to regard lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships, including whether and how to publicly recognize their lifelong commitments.
And, indeed, they are various:
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.
In other words, Lutherans run the gamut from those who think you’re a threat to society to those who want to plan your marriage to their nephew. However, they are in agreement as to some social positions impacting the gay community.
While Lutherans hold various convictions regarding lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships, this church is united on many critical issues. It opposes all forms of verbal or physical harassment and assault based on sexual orientation. It supports legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services. It has called upon congregations and members to welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families, and to advocate for their legal protection.
In synopsis, when it comes to Lutheran belief on same-sex relationships the church does not define marriage in an inclusive way but recognizes that there is no concensus on the approach to same-sex realtionships. However, it has endorsed employment non-discrimination legislation and opposes attacks, both physical and verbal. It also seems that it doesn’t buy into reorientation as either a requirement or a possibility.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, it has conceded that those who support same-sex relationships are not doing so out of some liberal appeasement or thwarting of the clear teaching of scripture. (“The difference between interpreters should not be understood as a conflict between those who seek to be ‘true to Scripture\’ and those who seek to ‘twist the Bible\’ to their own liking. The disagreements are genuine.”) Rather, they do so on the basis on conscience-bound belief and they are encouraged to “live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized.”
Conservative Lutherans were not pleased with the vote:
Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) decried the document: “We mourn the decision by the Churchwide Assembly to reject the clear teaching of the Bible that God’s intention for marriage is the relationship of one man and one woman. It is tragic that such a large number of ELCA members were willing to overturn the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been believed and confessed by Christians for nearly 2,000 years.”
But I find this statement to an admirable step in the direction of full inclusion.
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