Sunday, August 16, 2009

South Carolina Bishop: Yes on #1

Shrimp here.

If you know where to look it actually is on the South Carolina Synod's website (at least until the next synod newsletter is published). We first we had to download it (watch, this is a 12-page pdf newsletter) from the link provided in a Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier article in today's Sunday edition, "Church tackles sexuality," to figure that out. "It" being Bishop Herman Yoos' reflections on the four ministry proposals.

Tip o' the claw to TitusOneNine. And an alert newspaper reporter. Shrimp out.

From the desk heart of Bishop Herman R. Yoos

At our 2009 Synod Assembly I was asked by Pastor Marion Brazell and Pastor James Addy about where I stood in relation to the four ministry proposals based on the Human Sexuality Statement. This article is my attempt to share with you where I am on this difficult and complex issue that is facing the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. It has been a journey for me over the years of wrestling with scripture, tradition and our Lutheran theology.

For me, our Lutheran understanding of human sexuality is grounded in Genesis 1, where we read that God created us male and female in God’s own image. Here we learn that God’s first intention in creating us as sexual beings was the importance of bringing new life into this world and giving the family a firm foundation of safety and protection. In Genesis 2, we learn from the story of Adam and Eve in the garden a second blessing which included the gift of intimate trust with one another and with God that the biblical writers described as walking naked in the garden with God and not being ashamed. I believe that God intended from the beginning for marriage to be a gift of a lifelong faithful relationship of husband and wife, for procreation and also for the development of the most intimate bond of trust that is possible on earth between two people.

In moving on to Genesis 3 and 4, we read about humankind’s disobedience and fall from God’s plans for his creation, which affected everything and everyone. All of life became less than what God intended it to be from the beginning, including the gift and purpose of human sexuality. Even the goodness of human sexuality in marriage has become distorted by sin, including power struggles, manipulation, game playing, bargaining for favors, extramarital affairs and divorce. The misuse of human sexuality inevitably includes seeing persons as objects to be used, rather than persons of worth created in the image of God. Because of this brokenness, nothing is as God intended.

Therefore, I believe that one’s sexual orientation is not primarily a conscious choice, but rather is a deeply ingrained part of one’s identity. It seems to me that gays and lesbians no more choose their sexual orientation than heterosexuals do. Given that between 4 and 8% of the population enter this world with a gender attraction for the same sex person, the church continues to wrestle with the question of what is the most fair and just way to respond to these our baptized brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and other family members who share this fundamental attraction to the same sex.

When I consider that in our legal context today, gays and lesbians are still discriminated against and not treated equally under the law when it comes to taxes, to medical decisions, and end of life decisions, then it seems to me that there is a legitimate issue of justice that calls for us as Christians to support gays and lesbians who desire to live in a monogamous, committed and publicly accountable relationship. For me this takes nothing away from God’s gift of marriage as God’s first intention for creation, but it does allow for the recognition of a deep bond of intimate trust that can be found among same gendered couples who want to live in faithful committed relationships.

As I wrestle with Romans 1 and other scriptures that condemn homosexuality, I keep coming back to Romans 3:23-24. "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." In Galatians 3, Paul writes, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Our Lutheran theology refers most often to sin with a capital S as the universal condition we all face as humans living without trying to rank order the individual acts of sin.

In reading and wrestling with scripture, I also take seriously the call of the prophet "to set free those who are oppressed," "to let justice roll down like a river," and "to proclaim liberty to the captives."

For all of these reasons, if I were voting today on the four ministry proposals before the ELCA I would vote "yes" on Motion #1 "to find ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize and support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships."

At the same time, I would vote "no" against motions 2, 3 and 4, which advocate for structured flexibility in allowing for the ordination of same gendered persons in lifelong publicly accountable relationships. For me, ordination is not a justice issue, nor an issue of civil rights; but it is an issue of spiritual discernment and accountability.

I share these thoughts with you to let you know where I am before the Churchwide Assembly. These are certainly not new thoughts or original ones, but rather come out of the readings I have done along with the many conversations that others have shared with me. I told the assembly that my election to this office does not give me any ex cathedra knowledge or additional wisdom, but rather these are my best reflections that I share with you for further discussion in the future.

I continue to pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit for all the voting members of this Churchwide Assembly, and for all the decisions that are before us, and I encourage you to do the same.

Peace, Herman R. Yoos


Anonymous said...

Okay so let me see if I get this straight. He is willing to allow for local option with regards same-sex unions for lay people, but not for clergy. Why? Because somehow this is intrinsically sinful for a minister but not for the lay people.

Someone other than be see a contradiction here?

I'm not in favor of any of the ministry recommendations, but frankly if one is going to allow the blessing of same-sex unions throughout the ELCA, then how can one possibly, logically hold back that same acceptance from clergy who wish to break with Scripture too?

Doesn't make sense to me. I understand the Virginia Bishop feels the same way though.

Development said...

This is just another example of pandering to people who are seeking self justification by hating gays. Does the bible say homosexual behavior is sinful? Yes and no... its hard for us to understand that meaning. Just as people who think saying GodDamn out loud is breaking the second commandment, but using God to justify war is somehow OK. Dear Lord, please grant us the wisdom to understand your love and mercy does not exclude anyone... You do not love any of us more than another, you do not show grace to any of us more than another. Help us to love you by loving others. In your most holy name, AMEN

The good ship ELCA...

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