ELCA First Draft of Social Statement on Sexuality

Today the ELCA released the highly anticipated first draft of the Church’s sexuality social statement. For those unfamiliar of what that means and is: the ELCA builds some church policies and practices based on social statements that study a topic over a period of time, typically 2-4 years. This is the case for sexuality. The denomination has been struggling with the issue of homosexuality, as well as, sexuality as a whole. Hell, we’re Lutheran what do you expect!

The 2001 Churchwide Assembly passed the resolution to undertake a study so that the Church could arrive at a common stance on sexuality. In 2005, the recognition of same sex marriage and allowing openly gay pastors was discussed. As you might expect, not much was resolved.

In 2009, their work will be complete; covering all aspects of sexuality. This is the draft for this social statement. Homosexuality and same sex relationships are prominent in this draft. Both Lutherans Concerned, the advocacy organization for LGBT Lutherans, and Lutheran Core, the advocacy organization for conservative Lutherans, responded already to the draft in press releases.

The Lutherans Concerned press release takes the stance that the draft is correct in celebrating the family and values of committed relationships. It expressed concern that it merely tolerates LGBT Lutherans does nothing to end discrimination in the Church. The Lutheran CORE response is that the policy is faulty and opens the door for the future recognition of same sex relationships. Their take on this is that at times the draft does not specifically say “one man and one woman” when speaking of marriage.

What does the statement really say? I have not had a lot of time to study it in depth. It is a large document. Here’s what I have gleaned form the press so far…

  1. The draft does indeed reserve marriage as being between one man and one woman stating that sexual relationships should only be between married couples.
  2. The draft expresses regret that LGBT people have been wounded by church teachings.
  3. It acknowledges that many congregations openly recognize same sex couples and welcome them into their fellowship.
  4. It recognizes the importance of LGBT committed relationships, short of calling them a marriage.

That’s the short list for now. I am sure a lot of detail is buried in the document that will surface in the coming weeks. What happens next? Congregations are urged to study the document and respond by the end of the year with their studies. (That is a Lutheran tradition if you did not know it. Study it. Study it again and again and again…) The task force takes this input into consideration and issues its final recommendations next year. This recommendation goes before the Churchwide Assembly where it will be presented for adoption. Typically, resolutions are made in conjunction with the adoption to enable pieces of the study to move forward.

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