The 1993 guidance from the ELCA Conference of Bishops stated:
“We, as the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, recognize that there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship. We, therefore, do not approve such a ceremony as an official action of this church’s ministry. Nevertheless, we express trust in and will continue dialogue with those pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons, and affirm their desire to explore the best ways to provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”
In January, The Lutheran spoke with Roger Willer and Kaari Reierson about the draft of the social statement on human sexuality, which will be released March 13. The draft will be revised into the proposed social statement on human sexuality in early 2009. According to the time line, the Church Council will then review and “act to recommend” the proposed social statement to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
Willer and Reierson are staff from ELCA Church in Society who are assigned to the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality.
The Lutheran: Let’s go back to the beginning. What did the 2001 Churchwide Assembly call for?
Reierson: The 2001 Churchwide Assembly asked for two different, related things. First, the assembly asked for a study of homosexuality, recommendations about blessings of unions for people in committed same-sex partnerships and recommendations for a time line for rostering decisions (related to people in committed same-sex partnerships). Second, they asked for a social statement on human sexuality.
The task force fulfilled the first request by bringing a report and recommendations to the ELCA Church Council in 2005. That led to the actions taken by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly. The 2005 assembly voted against a proposal that would have allowed some rostering exceptions. They voted to continue to respect the 1993 guidance of the Conference of Bishops concerning pastoral care for gays and lesbians (see box). They also approved a resolution stating that this church “concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.”
Logically it would have made sense to do the social statement first, but when that proposal was brought in 2003, the Churchwide Assembly voted it down. It’s important for people to know that these directives were not decisions made by churchwide staff but decisions made by Churchwide Assembly voting members. Our work as staff is directed by the Churchwide Assembly. We can’t change the order or refuse the work.
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