Lutherans affirm same-sex relationships

By PATRICK CONDON
Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination have agreed to disagree on homosexuality, endorsing an official statement on human sexuality that says there’s room in the church for differing views on an issue that’s divided other religious groups.

[According to the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, the statement supports the “validity of same-sex relationships that are ‘chaste, monogamous and lifelong.'”

The vote was extraordinarily close. If one more delegate had voted no or abstained, the document would’ve been defeated.]

Delegates to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s nationwide assembly in Minneapolis on Wednesday approved a “social statement on human sexuality.” The vote was a prelude to a bigger debate Friday, when delegates will tackle a proposal that would allow individual ELCA congregations to hire people in committed same-sex relationships as clergy.

The social statement lays a theological foundation for a liberalized policy on gay clergy, and supporters of the proposal praised Wednesday’s vote. “We are encouraged and hopeful that … this will result in the church’s elimination of the current ban on ministers in same gender relationships,” said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, a group of pro-gay Lutherans.

Opponents of the social statement said it ignores clear scriptural direction that homosexuality is a sin. “We are asked to affirm a description of sexuality based on a reality that’s shaped not by Scripture but by today’s culture,” said Curtis Sorbo of Adams, N.D., a convention delegate from the ELCA’s Eastern North Dakota Synod.

ELCA officials said it shouldn’t be assumed that passage of the social statement automatically means the proposal on gay clergy will be approved. “We haven’t yet had that debate, and I would not want to conjecture that,” said the Rev. Rebecca Larson, an official in the ELCA’s headquarters in Chicago.

Still, the social statement passed a higher bar than what will be required to approve the new clergy policy. The social statement, as a foundational document for the church, needed to be approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the 1,045 convention delegates. It got exactly that, passing with 66.67 percent of the vote.

The new clergy policy needs only a simple majority to pass.

The 34-page social statement actually touches on homosexuality only briefly, and is intended as a sweeping definition of the ELCA’s approach to matters of human sexuality. It also sketches out the church’s approach to gender, friendship, marriage and children, cohabitation outside marriage, the commercialization of sexuality, and the global sex trade.

But it acknowledges what Larson described as an utter lack of consensus toward homosexuality and same-sex relationships across the ELCA’s membership. She said the statement’s drafters agreed that such differing views could be accomodated because the homosexuality issue is “not central to our faith,” Larson said.

Wednesday’s debate was interrupted briefly in the afternoon when severe storms and a possible tornado passed through downtown Minneapolis, damaging the steeple of an ELCA church across the street from the convention center. Delegates were allowed to remain in the convention hall, but a few jokes about God’s wrath proved inevitable.

“We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work,” said the Rev. Steven Loy, who was helping oversee the convention.

Updated: August 20, 2009 — 9:59 am

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  1. At this same meeting the ELCA overwhelmingly approved a bilateral agreement with The United Methodist Church, entering into full communion. We Methodists approved the same agreement last year. It’s not a precursor to a merger but is instead a strong affirmation of our Christian unity and shared beliefs. The ELCA has similar understandings with five other denominations but this is the first for TUMC.

    As a United Methodist I’m very pleased.

    http://www.christianpost.com/article/20090821/elca-delegates-ok-full-communion-with-umc/index.html

  2. Jose,

    Thanks for pointing to something beyond the sexuality debates at the church-wide assembly… as an ELCA Lutheran, I’m also very pleased!

  3. The article lays out the other denominations with which ELCA has full communion: “While the full communion relation is the first for the UMC, it is ELCA’s sixth. ELCA also has full communion agreements with the Moravian Church, The Episcopal Church, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

    So, they’ve hit most of the mainline denominations now, including the Episcopal Church; UKLutheran, you need to be nice to me, cause we’re in communion with each other!

  4. UK, the ELCA is truly remarkable in its leadership in these ecumenical dialogues. We thank you. A close friend attended this ELCA conference as a Methodist observer and was very moved by the people and the proceedings.

    Caleb, we Methodists are also in talks with the Episcopalians. Given our shared heritage that would seem a natural fit.

  5. After what I have endured in the ECUSA, from the sheer mean-spiritedness of the ultra-leftist Newark diocese, I have decided to become a Lutheran instead. I walk with Episcopalians no longer.

    Yes, the decision taken yesterday was part of my motivation. Also, though, the ELCA pulls more than 650,000 souls into its churches of a Sunday. It’s less mealy-mouthed, less offensively sanctimonious, and more genetically honest, than the slimy middle-class cocktail-prattlers of Canterbury.

    To the devil with the ECUSA.

    memo to Mark Beckwith: you can afford a beard-trimmer, why the hell don’t you buy one?

  6. I guess I always assumed, Jose, that we were already brethren of some sort because of our shared Anglican heritage; I guess now they’ll just make it official.

    And you’re right, Dr. Newark; the influx of the middle class into the Episcopal Church is what killed it and made it heretical; when the upper classes controlled it, all was sweetness and light.

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