Saturday, July 30, 2005

A most excellent article....

Ecumenical News
"Lutherans Prepare for Sexuality Scuffle"
Steve Rempe

"The Evangelical Church in America (ELCA) is preparing for a major showdown over homosexuality at its upcoming Churchwide Assembly August 8-14 in Orlando, Florida. How the ELCA assembly responds will have a profound impact on the future of the five million-member denomination. It may also set an example for other mainline Protestant denominations facing similar demands that they discard the traditional Christian teaching reserving sexual intimacy for the marriage of one man and one woman.

In 2001, the Churchwide Assembly (the biennial legislative gathering of the ELCA) created a task force to produce proposals for the 2005 assembly regarding two issues: the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.

After prolonged study and consultation, the task force released three recommendations in January. Those recommendations, slightly modified by the ELCA Church Council in April, will now come before the Churchwide Assembly.

Both the task force and the church council insist that their recommendations would bring "no change" in the church's traditional teaching disapproving of homosexual relations. But there seem to be some carefully constructed ambiguities in the recommendations. These appear to open just enough space under church law for local congregations that wish to ordain practicing homosexuals and bless same-sex unions. The adoption of these recommendations would represent a significant shift in ELCA practice toward the affirmation of homosexuality.

Recommendation #1 urges a renewed commitment to "finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements." The unanswered question is whether "living together" means not enforcing the ELCA's standards of sexual conduct when a significant minority refuses to abide by those standards.

Recommendation #2 starts with some very traditional language. It urges that the ELCA "continue to respect the guidance" of a 1993 statement from the Conference of Bishops on same-sex unions. That 1993 statement affirmed: "There is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship. We, therefore, do not approve of such a ceremony as an official action of this church's ministry. Nevertheless, we express trust in and will continue dialogue with those pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons, and affirm their desire to explore the best ways to provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister." The unanswered question is whether "pastoral care" includes the blessing of same-sex unions. A phrase further down in the recommendation implicitly grants permission for just such blessings.

Recommendation #3 would allow "exceptions to the normative policies of this church" as regards homosexual ordination. The "normative policies" of the ELCA are laid out in "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA," which states:
Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

While the original recommendation of the task force was to urge tolerance in dealing with those synods that ordained active homosexuals, the Council of Bishops' proposal establishes a formal apparatus to put such candidates on the roster of ELCA clergy. The unanswered question here is whether the process of granting "exceptions" for homosexuals would soon become the norm, with more conservative church bodies being chastised if they refused to allow the "exceptions" that had become common practice elsewhere.

In the case of the first two recommendations, a simple majority in the Churchwide Assembly would be sufficient for passage. Because the third recommendation would require in a change in the ELCA constitution, a two-thirds majority would be necessary for adoption.

Opposition to ELCA Proposals
Since the release of the church council report, many ELCA members have been vocal in their opposition to the three recommendations....

That's one of the bigger understatements of the year!!!!!!!! Read the rest of this most excellent article here.

No comments:

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...