Sunday, February 22, 2009

ELCA News Release on Sexuality Reactions

Opposition, Support for ELCA Task Force Recommendation, Social Statement

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Feb. 19 release of two documents from the Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality generated support and opposition from such organizations as Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA), Lutheran CORE, WordAlone and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The task force released a "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies," which primarily focuses on changing the policy that "ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships" -- as stated in the ELCA's Vision and Expectations" for ordained ministries. The same expectation is expressed in policies for professional lay leaders in the church.

The task force also released "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," a proposed social statement that addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective.

Emily Eastwood, LC/NA executive director, agreed and disagreed with elements of both documents. LC/NA is an independent Lutheran organization that relates to the ELCA through its Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission program unit.

Eastwood said LC/NA is "gratified" that the documents create "room for the recognition of same-gender relationships" and that a "provision is being made for ministers in committed same-gender relationships to serve in ministry."

But she called the mechanism in which the ELCA task force offered to implement the recommendation "unacceptable."

"The mechanism proffered states that congregations, candidacy committees, synods and bishops, bound by their consciences to oppose the ordination or service of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ministers may do so. Such allowance may create institutionalized discrimination at the synod level, resulting in pockets where the existing prohibitions may remain in full force," she said.

Goodsoil, a group of organizations working for the "full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families in the full ministerial and sacramental life of the ELCA," featured LC/NA's communication on its Web site.

The WordAlone Network stated it will work to defeat the task force recommendation. WordAlone is a non-profit, Minnesota-based Lutheran organization.

"Local option is, ironically, the negation of their entire desire to reach consensus. With individual, congregational and synodical option, there is no standard at all, just the celebration of self over against the Christian understanding of community and true freedom," said the Rev. Jaynan Clark Egland, WordAlone president.

In a media advisory, Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) announced that it will work to defeat the ELCA task force recommendation. Lutheran CORE is an independent Lutheran organization that relates to the ELCA through its Vocation and Education program unit.

"The proposal for change in standards for clergy departs from the clear teaching of Scripture," said the Rev. Paull (correct) Spring, State College, Pa., chair of the Lutheran CORE steering committee.

"The task force (recommendation) will disconnect the ELCA from God's Word in the Bible, which clearly says that all sex outside of marriage is sin, and disconnect it from all who uphold the biblical norm -- most ELCA members and most of the Christian church on earth," said the Rev. Mark C. Chavez, Landisville, Pa., director of Lutheran CORE.

The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, executive director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care, issued a statement in response to the ELCA task force documents.

"To say that we are disappointed in the task force proposals would be a vast understatement. But we are not surprised," he said. "The LCMS position on homosexuality is that of the Bible and the church catholic from the very beginning."

Harrison noted that there's a "great deal of interaction and partnership" between the LCMS and ELCA, but he said the task of maintaining that relationship was "becoming even more complex."

The ELCA task force's report and recommendation and proposed social statement will be considered at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- the church's chief legislative body -- Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.

LCMS, LC/NA, Lutheran CORE and WordAlone do not have voice or vote at ELCA churchwide assemblies, but members of LC/NA, Lutheran CORE and WordAlone may have been elected to serve as voting members.

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The task force's "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies" and "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" are available at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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