Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ordaining Homosexuals who are "coupled"

Shrimp here:

Very happy to get any support from other ELCA clergy, but overjoyed to get submissions like the following (BTW, think the author should have said "partnered" because as it is, it could be taken to mean "ordaining them two by two" which of course could be coming down the road, followed by poly-ordaining!):

"Ordaining Homosexual Couples"

"The Lutheran Church is considering a change in policy regarding ordaining of actively practicing homosexual couples because: 1) it would be easier to reach out to this segment of our community and 2) we might be “judging” these individuals if we discriminate against them. The information provided by the church recognizes that there is no precedent for such an action from any policy or practice in prior church history. It also emphasizes that fidelity to the partner is required, just as for heterosexual couples although this is not an important matter if homosexual ordination is inappropriate.

The real Questions are:
1. Whether partners who are engaged in an active lifestyle of sin, whether faithful or not, should be ordained.
2. Whether any major change in practice that is contrary to prior precedent is a change in policy

The analogy would be whether to ordain an actively drinking alcoholic to minister to other alcoholics or an active pedophile to reach other pedophiles. The group that is successful in reaching people with an active lifestyle of sin is those who have learned the solution and are abstinent. This is clear in the example of alcoholics anonymous in which the abstinent recovering alcoholic reaches out to the population drinking. It is the process of recovery and change that we can offer to sinners, not an ongoing lifestyle of sin that offends our God and confuses everyone.

The policy and practice of the Lutheran Church has not included ordination of pastors engaged in an active lifestyle of sin, sexual or otherwise. The information provided by the Lutheran church acknowledges the lack of precedent from church history or the Bible for ordaining pastors engaged in a homosexual lifestyle, whether faithful or not. Thus, this is our policy as well as practice and any change should require a 2/3 majority.

It appears that a very active political minority seeks a “political solution” outside of 2000 years of historical precedent by:
1. Proposing that an obvious change in policy requiring a 2/3 majority to pass can be voted as a “change in practice” which requires only a majority.
2. vote first to determine whether this is a change in policy or practice rather than accepting that any change in historical precedent must be a change in policy
3. placing the vote for “policy” or “practice” as one of the first items on the agenda when many less concerned people might be absent rather than placing a controversial issue at a point in the program when most people will be there so as to reflect the majority.
4. The motion claims there will be oversight of ordained pastors to make sure there are no abuses. However, once one ordained couple has been approved, there will be a precedent and, therefore, pressure on the leaders to approve all couples, even those with questionable credentials. Otherwise it might represent discrimination.
This is worldly politics rather than spiritual guidance.

Is this an important issue? Could we who oppose such a change from church precedent be “judging people” or are we simply applying the word of God to this situation. Jesus never directly addressed the status of an individual homosexual. That is not surprising since a practicing homosexual was stoned to death as required by Old Testament law. However, Jesus did address a similar sexual sin in the woman caught in adultery. It had a similar penalty of being stoned to death. Although we all have sin and the crowd’s desire for punishment was addressed by having the person without sin cast the first stone, Jesus then addressed her lifestyle of sin. He said to “go and sin no more”. I am sure she did sin in some way after that, but was told not to adopt a lifestyle of sexual sin. Had this been a homosexual, I believe that he would have said the same thing. Furthermore, he would say the same thing to homosexual couples wishing to be ordained, whether faithful or not. In the example above, Jesus forgave the act and person, but condemned the lifestyle.

Perhaps, this is just an example of the difference between the Old and New Testament. However, Jesus describes himself as fulfilling the law, not replacing it. Not one dot of the law will be changed. He never questions the Old Testament or the Jewish condemnation of the lifestyle of sexual sin. Therefore, opposition to ordaining homosexuals is not judging, but application of well established biblical principles.

Another concept is the difference between private sin and public sin, particularly in the leadership. The bible speaks of individuals, leaders and groups (churches, cultures and nations) in relationship to sin. The leaders and groups are held to different standards. Public leaders are held to a higher standard. Moses was unable to enter the Promised Land because he did not represent God exactly. This may seem a severe punishment, but is an example of the higher standard. Those who would be leaders of the Lutheran Church are no different.

All individuals are oriented wrong, heterosexual and homosexual. We all sin and go our own way. The Holy Spirit seeks to change individuals and re-orient them to God’s will. The fact that the homosexual is oriented differently (genetic or otherwise) is no excuse for them as individuals not to seek God’s will and to change or alter their practice. However, this is between them and God as individuals. They are not out of reach of God’s Love, amazing grace and forgiveness even when outside of His will, just like the rest of us. As an individual, they must work out their own salvation.

Leadership is a different matter. The groups (churches and nations) can not accept a lifestyle of active sin in their leaders and must remove them when the lifestyle is apparent. This is not judgment of the individuals, but application of biblical principles to church leadership. The standards are different for these leaders just like for nations and other groups. Approval and active participation in a homosexual lifestyle is condemned. Apparently, a group can reject God’s guidance, a major manifestation of which is approval of lifestyles of sexual sin. Not God’s will or guidance, but my orientation, my politics and my will. The Bible firmly establishes that God will not bless groups that adopt policies, practices or politics in opposition to his will one of which is the homosexual lifestyle.

Our church has become very immature in application of biblical principles. We are the “dear children” of 1 John 3 who John is cautioning to stay away from those who sound good, but would lead us astray:
“5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
This is referring to accepting a lifestyle of sin as we are considering approving for the leadership of our church. The riches of Christ indicate that we must be more than politically correct. We have to apply God’s word to a world that does not take God’s opinion very strongly. We must do this regardless of culture. When culture and Christ clash, it is the culture that must change, not God’s guidance. By so doing, we are salt to our culture and express the love of God that will not allow sin to abound unchallenged.

Are we as a church going to let politics determine our policy and practice or will we continue to follow God’s expressed will? The Bible has been the standard for all Lutheran decision making since Luther initiated the reformation. It is not a matter of whether we could interpret the Word as allowing this behavior, but whether the Bible clearly expresses this conduct. It must not clearly favor homosexual ordination as it has not been supported by 2000 years of policy and practice. Do we have any good reason to change other than the “politically correct” agenda of our culture?

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