Friday, February 27, 2009

Metro New York's Bishop Rimbo's Response

Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod writes,

On the way together
February 24, 2009

In my conference visitations I repeatedly have told people it’s all about relationships. God, the Holy Trinity, is a relationship. And our life together in the church is about relationships, too. We need each other. This theme of mind seems to resonate with leaders of our synod congregations. I’m grateful for that. In print last week was another story of one spouse shooting the other in a rage. Recently we have heard about an 11-year old boy killing his father’s pregnant girlfriend. Violence is common and the level of rage behind these instances of conflict, miscommunication, or jealousy is almost unbelievable. Disagreement and dysfunction about sex is no small factor.

That is why I want to remind you that this life we share in the church is all about relationships. In the end human sexuality is part of that reality.

The 33-page report on human sexuality takes pains to describe our best understanding of what it means to be related to one another as the family of God. It acknowledges the intimate ways in which human beings are together as offspring, as parents, as couples. In the face of an absolute deluge of sexuality in almost every aspect of life, it holds out themes of trust, grace, fairness, mercy and God and upholds those themes.

It also tries to outline a path for us to remain on the way together despite profound disagreement across the spectrum of opinion. I think it offers us hope that we shall remain one, as Jesus prayed. We, together, will have to assess whether it succeeds.

While this makes for a long message to you, I wanted to outline my understanding of what this message from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is saying. There has been a range of emotions – from anticipation to anxiety – surrounding the release of the Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Now that it is here, it is important to familiarize ourselves with its contents. Most of the statement is a non-controversial, comprehensive, Biblically-based understanding of human sexuality. As mentioned above, theological themes like trust, hope, joy, grace and faith are extraordinarily helpful in our efforts to reflect on healthy human sexual response and behavior.

In addition to the social statement, the task force was given the charge to bring forward possible changes in policies on rostered ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The simple question is "Can persons with homosexual orientations who are in publically committed relationships serve in the rostered leadership of our Church?"

The report includes recommendations for action by the Churchwide Assembly in a process. The Assembly will vote on the following four steps as separate, one-by-one resolutions. If step one passes, step two would be considered, and so on.

This is, again, how to understand the proposal:

Step one asks the Churchwide Assembly whether, in principle, it is committed to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

Step two asks the Churchwide Assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.

Step three asks this Church whether, in the future implementation of these commitments, it will make decisions so that all in this church bear the burdens of the other, and respect the bound consciences of all. This means that any solution that serves only the conscience-bound positions of one or another part of this church will not be acceptable.

Step four proposes how this Church can move toward change in a way that respects the bound consciences of all. It recognizes that such respect will lead to diversity of practice. However, the majority of the task force believes that the conscience-bound lack of consensus will be respected most faithfully by providing some structured flexibility in decision-making so that congregations and synods may choose whether or not to approve or call people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve in rostered ministry in the ELCA.

In brief, the Churchwide Assembly this coming August will decide whether to create "space" for congregations and synods to publically recognize and hold accountable the relationship of same-gendered couples (step one), and (step two) whether our Church ought to find ways to allow the rostered ministry of such persons. The task force acknowledges that conscience-bound faithful Christians find themselves on different sides of this issue. The task force also acknowledges that we are bound not only in our own consciences but in love to the conscience of the other. Because of the lack of consensus in the church, the task force believes that we need to respect our differences and accept the different places in which the baptized find themselves. The recommendation affirms that our distinctive positions on this issue should not be church-dividing. No congregation or institution will be forced to call a leader they do not wish to call.

The documents will be reviewed by the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at their meeting, March 27-30. The Council may choose to amend the proposed social statement and will recommend action on it for consideration by the Churchwide Assembly, August 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.

On the way together in this great Metropolitan New York Synod we will continue to seek to remain together. It may be like a family with some “issues.” I ask for your prayers, conversation and support for our church during this critical period.

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo


Cap'n Bill said...

So, we can thank Bp Rimbo for making this REALLY simple ot understand. Since the answer to Step One is "No" that is as far as it goes. Right?

Anonymous said...

I guess I hadn't digested all the documents yet, but when Bp Rimbo (I can't help seeing Sly Stallone every time I hear this guys' name!) said, "love binds us to the conscience of others," I balked. I'm bound to someone else's conscience? How can this be, especially when our consciences so clearly differ?
As to "we need each other", Paul asked "...what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?"
Hard words, I know; just as hard for me as for any, but there they are, and we'll have to deal with them - or rather, let them deal with us.

Jason said...

I have to say that all of these comments from the various ELCA Bishops simply confirm what most have already been saying for some time - the leadership of the ELCA is avowedly liberal and are determined not to stand up for any principle whatsoever other than "can't we all just get along." Personally, I am starting to feel like I just can't stay in the ELCA anymore, regardless of the stance of my congregation on these issues., and regardless of where the assembly comes out on the recommendations. The ship is sinking - time to jump.

Anonymous said...

bishop Rimbo states: "No congregation or institution will be forced to call a leader they do not wish to call."

I'd like to hear him, or other synod bishops, confess where they have coerced congregations to call the bishop's preferred candidate, and after confessing, profess not to do so again. I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

Read the Book of Jude, dear brothers and sisters. I'm very much afraid that Bishop Rimbo is a bad number. The ELCA is kaput....

The good ship ELCA...

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