Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ELCA Synod Bishops Respond to Task Force Recommendation, Social Statement

Shrimp here, with the second of Ash Wednesday's ELCA News releases. Well, the thought had crossed our tiny mind that we should go checking around for messages from ELCA Bishops. Frankly, we don't find the following encouraging in the least. Shrimp out...

ELCA Synod Bishops Respond to Task Force Recommendation, Social Statement

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In pastoral letters to members of their respective synods, bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) encouraged pastors, lay leaders and others to become familiar with two documents released Feb. 19 by the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality. Some bishops also commented on the contents of the documents.

The task force released a "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies," which focuses on changing the standard 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 applies to associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses.

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.

Both documents will be considered by voting members at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- the church's chief legislative body -- Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.

In their letters, some of the 65 bishops extended their appreciation to the task force for its "faithful work" and outlined the church's work leading up to the assembly. In the coming months some bishops will host open forums to discuss and receive comments about the documents.

The Rev. Jessica R. Crist, bishop, ELCA Montana Synod, Great Falls, urged synod members "to read (the documents) for yourself, and not to base conclusions on what someone writes." She said, "I have already read and heard oversimplified and just plain inaccurate accounts floating about in the public media."

"The task force recommendation, in my reading of it, strives to take a different route from creating winners and losers in this matter," Crist said.

The Rev. Jon V. Anderson, bishop, ELCA Southwestern Minnesota Synod, Redwood Falls, also encouraged synod members to read the documents. "Too often we let other people frame our own reflection and thoughts by how they see things."

"These documents now belong to the church," said the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop, ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod, St. Paul, Minn. "Our church is participatory in how it makes decisions about our life together," he said. "This is in process, and this process is designed to bring the church's full participation into the final decision."

The Rev. Michael L. Burk, bishop, ELCA Southeastern Iowa Synod, Iowa City, said, "We have entered the next phase of what has been a long and thoughtful conversation through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In a church like ours, where decisions about life together are participatory, we will all benefit from your careful reading of these pieces and from your willingness to engage others in honest and respectful dialog."

"The documents are intended to be a faithful reflection of the ELCA's study, prayer and discussion process about human sexuality," said the Rev. B. Penrose Hoover, bishop, ELCA Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa.

The Rev. Callon W. Holloway Jr., bishop, ELCA Southern Ohio Synod, Columbus, said, "I have been more than a little concerned about the release of the draft social statement on human sexuality. The subject is not the centerpiece of our mission, witness, and life together, although it is important."

"Some feel that the recommendation could strengthen the church in regards to our mission in ecclesiastical and social justice, while others feel that it could threaten our unity and identity. Still others wish that it would just go away. Whatever your position, please carefully re-study the whole document before interpreting highlights to others," said Holloway.

The Rev. Edward R. Benoway, bishop, ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, Tampa, Fla., said, "I am encouraged that the recommendation urges us in the direction of clarifying our principles of being church together before attempting to change practice. We need to deeply respect (the) fact that while worshiping one Lord, and claiming one faith and one baptism into Christ, we are not of one mind on these important issues facing our church and our world."

According to the Rev. Allan C. Bjornberg, bishop, ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod, Denver, "As a church, we have been at these conversations for 15 years. They have sometimes been quite difficult, even divisive and volatile. But I have been grateful for this church's growing maturity and deepening ability to engage these difficult conversations."

The Rev. Margaret G. Payne, bishop, ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass., said, "Although admittedly biased from my former life as chair of the task force, and witness to its wisdom and abilities of discernment, I believe that the (report and recommendation) document captures the true place in which the church finds itself -- no consensus in these matters -- and suggests a very Lutheran and wise way to use mutual respect and love for the gospel, and a patient four-step process, as the way to continue to navigate this difficult issue in our life together."

According to the Rev. Claire S. Burkat, bishop, ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Norristown, the recommendation "offers us a way forward to carry out our mission and ministry while respecting that Christians disagree on this issue for deep-seated reasons of conscience and interpretation of Scripture." If the recommendation is approved, "I will welcome the gifts and abilities of the many faithful, devout and talented gay and lesbian pastors to this church," she said.

"As one of the first women ordained in the Lutheran church in the 1970s, I know what it is like to be excluded from opportunities for ministry. I also know that change in culture and acceptance takes time, patience and openness to new expressions of ministry," Burkat said.

- - -
Information about the 65 synods of the ELCA is at on the ELCA Web site.

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

No comments:

The good ship ELCA...

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