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Bishops: Divided in views but united

ELCA Conference of Bishops offers advice and counsel to church on sexuality report

The Conference of Bishops acknowledged that they “are not of one mind” on matters related to the report of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality but also said “we hold each other in love and respect” and “are not divided by these differences.”

At their March 3-7 meeting in Dallas, the bishops sought to offer advice to the ELCA Church Council for its April meeting. The council will adopt resolutions related to the task force report and recommendations that will come before the August Churchwide Assembly. (The task force report is at www.elca.org/faithfuljourney/tfreport.)

After several hours of discussion, including two hours in a closed “off the record” session, the bishops drafted a pastoral letter. It says in part:

• “We urge this church to affirm recommendation one” (calling the ELCA to “live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements”). The bishops’ letter calls ELCA members to prayer, Scripture reading, worship, forgiveness and a variety of faith practices during deliberations.

• “We further ask that with respect to recommendation two, this church affirm for pastoral guidance the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops, leaving it as it was intended—a matter of advice and counsel.” The bishops in 1993 found basis neither “in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment” of same-gender blessings but also affirmed their desire to explore ways congregations can provide pastoral care to same-sex couples. Recommendation two asks the church to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement.

• Regarding recommendation three, the bishops said: “We acknowledge that as a conference we are unable to offer a definitive word of advice .... Some bishops are convinced there should be no change in the practice and policy of our church. Other bishops favor changes both in policy and in practice though there is no consensus as to how such changes should take place.” Recommendation three asked that the church maintain its policies (gay and lesbian people in committed relationships may not be ordained) but allowed synods bishops “to refrain from disciplining” such pastors and the congregations they serve.


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