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Lutherans Adopt New Statement on Sexuality

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

“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.”

It is to laugh, were it not so sad.

We’re just the longest lasting in a long list of people and issues that The Church–not just Lutherans– has sought out to demonstrate it’s disapproval of, and later changed its mind about.

those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it– unfortunately for the victims.

50 years ago, misgenation laws were justified by people screaming out “immorality” and whipping out their bibles.

75 years ago, segregation laws. People quoting their bibles supported that.

100 years ago, women were denied the vote, justified by bibles

200 years ago, slavery justified by bibles.

300 years ago, withches and bibles.

400 years ago, Catholics and Lutherans were torturing and slaughtering eachother.

900 years ago, quoting their bibles, the Christians repsonded to the Muslim political power in THE HOLY LAND (Now there is a sarcasm!)

And we can add 2000 years of anti-semitism and 6 million dead sponsored by the Gospel of John.

Burr
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

Woo! Bring on the tornadoes!!

octobercountry
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

“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….”

Okay, no matter how many times I hear statements like this, and no matter who is speaking (and I’ve heard it coming from just about every denomination), I just DON’T GET IT.

Biblically-based Old Testament-style marriage could basically be defined as being between one man and as many wives as he could afford to buy. And I don’t recall God having any problem whatsoever with this arrangement. At least, polygamy was never decried in Biblical writings.

So, either God is willing to accept a broader definition of “marriage” than most Christians are willing to admit, or else the definition of what makes an acceptable marriage changes over time, according to the culture and standards in which said marriage exists… I just wish that the Biblical literalists would admit, for once, that their definition of marriage is NOT the only one sanctioned by the Bible…

octobercountry
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

I am a member of the ELCA myself, and I’ll agree this is a step in the right direction. At the same time, the statement does make me laugh a bit—basically, they are saying “We can’t come to any agreement whatsoever on this issue, so we aren’t making a well-defined stand of any kind.”

The good thing about it, of course, is that it leaves the individual a fair amount of freedom as to what they may believe and still be a member in good standing of the Lutheran church…. I was reading up on the convention on another site, and of course (as was expected) there are quite a few idiotic comments posted, in the “You’re all going to hell” sort of vein…

Richard W. Fitch
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

The real test is going to come tomorrow, 8/21, when the real vote on accepting same-sex couples in full fellowship in their churches and acknowledging that members in faith-filled, monogamous partnerships are fully qualified for every level of pastoral leadership.

Alan
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

I’m with october,I have to laugh a bit at the way they try to satisfy all sides. But given the theological diversity of this denomination, it’s going to be hard to come to any sort of definitive decision. I just hope they can ignore the conservatives…

BentonQuest
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

I always love the “clear teaching of the Bible” statement. It is just a way of shutting down dissent. If I proclaim that the teaching is “clear” then for you to question it means that you are dense. If it was so clear, why would so many theologians have so many disagreements over it?

Scott
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

Speaking of the tornado that damaged the convention center and the Lutheran church nearby, some of the lovely old homophobes in the Twin Cities are already talking about “God” making a statement towards the ELCA convention.

http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1965_the_tornado_the_lutherans_and_homosexuality/

Nothing like head in the sandism to keep me convinced that some people are incapable of dealing with reality.

Scott

PSUdain
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

As someone who has been following this for years now, who participated in the studies which lead up to the creation of this statement (and even helped to lead one on the Draft Statement), I think this is, overall, an excellent statement, and I think that the ministry policies, if passed, will serve us well.

I came out in this church, to a member of my Lutheran student community. My campus pastor also helped me along the way. I feel very strongly that we need to allow opently partnered LGBT people to officially serve in our ministries.

At the same time, the way our church is organized and the way it works is through three levels, Congregation, Synod and National. Each must have freedom to express its faith in ways that it, by the Holy Spirit, finds good.

As church we cannot act to divide one another. I am happy to share the ELCA with people who think I am sinful because I am gay. I welcome them and their perspective, and I would never dream of trying to take away their ability to express their faith. I ask they not try to do so to me.

In the end, is exactly what I wanted to see? No. But I think it is a very good way of helping each other to live together in love in Christ, and in respect of each others’ bound consciences.

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