The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


ELCA Sexuality Studies: Responses

I care about the unity of our church. I care about the mission of congregations in a variety of settings. And I care about the hundreds of homosexual sisters and brothers in Christ — and their families — whom I have come to know over the past 30 years. I'm disappointed that the task force could not have been more positive in recommendations two and three. Recommendation two seems to say to pastors: "Do not bless same-gender relationships. But if you must, we will not discipline you." I wish we could say instead: "Bless, because it is good for these members of the body of Christ. It is good for us all." Recommendation three seems to say to congregations: "We urge you not to call a qualified pastor who is in a same-gender relationship. But if you do, we will not necessarily remove you from our fellowship." I wish we could say instead: "Call, if the Spirit leads you to believe this is the right person for your congregation. It is good for you. It is good for us all." Due to my commitment to the gospel, my understanding of Scripture and the voice of my conscience, I grieve that the report suggests that my brothers and sisters in Christ in faithful, same-gender relationships can't be full partners in the ELCA. In the spirit of recommendation one, I will continue to "concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our differences."

Herbert W. Chilstrom
ELCA presiding bishop, 1988 to 1994; St. Peter, Minn.

I wish I could say the ELCA will be making an informed decision, but I can't. The 2001 Churchwide Assembly mandated a "study [that would include] ... scientific ... material on homosexuality." The task force produced its study with minimal scientific content. This is disturbing because I have experienced healing from unwanted homosexuality. I've come to understand my condition through therapists well versed in science. If I were left with only the information from the study, I would still be a practicing homosexual. Whether one agrees or disagrees, people have the right to know about psychological terms like "triangular system," "defensive detachment" and "ambivalence;" the disparity between much of what one hears anecdotally and what one finds through research data; research demonstrating how sexuality is on a continuum and changeable, not static; Robert Spitzer's research; and how healing is about "change," not "cure," and why that's OK for so many. Unlike my homosexual past, my life is now better than ever. But the ELCA has been misled by its leadership. The task force included two homosexuals, not one who's known healing from homosexuality. The task force took almost two years before it visited with people who have experienced healing. Page 19 of the report claims this was part of their preparation for the study booklet, but this isn't true. The ELCA leadership currently follows practices that encourage active gays and lesbians in positions of influence to serve on synod staffs and in Chicago. How can we open doors for radical changes when we haven't finished our homework?

A person living in hope
Name withheld at request of the writer who has children

(Article continues, including 13 more responses representing various opinions.)

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February issue


Embracing diversity