The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Help for your congregation

Editor's note: This week's e-newsletter is something different. We're offering e-newsletter subscribers a free download of one of this month's discussion guides. Each month, The Lutheran offers two study guides for use in congregation adult forums and confirmation classes. Study guides are free downloads for print subscribers and Web members, $3.50 each for others. This week, study guide author Rob Blezard has prepared a guide to help congregations prepare to study the ELCA "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality."

Discussion guide: “Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality”

Churches the world over are dealing with issues of human sexuality, including homosexuality, with varying degrees of controversy and strife. The ELCA is no exception. The "Draft Statement on Human Sexuality" represents the ELCA's effort to root our church's discussions and policy in the rich soil of Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and our particularly Lutheran way of working through moral and ethical issues.

What follows is a guide for how your congregation or small group can explore and discuss the draft in a way that leads everyone to new and better understandings of the issues, our Lutheran faith and our identities as sexual beings created in the image of God. The purpose of this study guide is not to tell you what to think, but rather how to engage in a process that will be helpful in looking at the statement.

Before you dive into the statement

1) Be sure everyone is aware of exactly what a draft social statement is and knows the steps necessary for it to become a proposed social statement, and then an officially adopted social statement of the ELCA. Guidance for this can be found on pages I and II of the draft. For details, you can look at "Policies and Procedures of the ELCA for Addressing Social Concerns," which explains how social statements are developed and implemented.

(Download the entire guide for more on this point.)

2) Be sure that everyone understands the scope of the draft. The issue concerns human sexuality in general, and many of the practical issues are not dealt with. For instance, ordination of gay and lesbian pastors (and other rostered leaders) who wish to have intimate same-sex relationships is left for another recommendation. That recommendation is expected to be released in February 2009.

3) Be certain that everyone understands the church's current policy on sexuality for rostered leaders (pastors, associates in ministry and diaconal ministers). As outlined in "Vision & Expectations," sex is permitted only in the context of heterosexual marriage. Unmarried rostered leaders, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are expected to be celibate. The church has no provision for marriage between same-sex people. For details, see "Vision & Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA," and "Vision & Expectations: Commissioned Associates in Ministry." The draft social statement changes nothing in "Vision & Expectations."

(Click here to download the entire guide.)

This week's front page features:

Cover 5Saving history: North Dakota organization works to preserve prairie churches. (Photo at right.)

Banking on the church's promise: In Tanzania, a Lutheran bank invests in lives and reaps the profits.

Lutheran Deaconess Association names new director.

AFP turnaround 5 years in making: Beth Lewis' tenure has included product and resource launches.

Also: Estonian Lutherans support those affected by HIV.

Also: Raising her voice.

Also: Point & click.

Read these articles on our front page ...

On our staff blog:
Kathleen Kastilahn
Kathleen Kastilahn (right) uses Earth Day to reflect on God's creation.
Sonia Solomonson blogs about leading with fear.

Worship opinions needed

Participate in an upcoming cover story in The Lutheran by responding to one or more of these questions:

1. Worship: What do congregational members want? What do worshipers need?

2. Worship in ELCA congregations varies but essential elements remain. What are those elements for you?

3. How do we both honor traditional liturgy and make room for other worship styles?

Respond (500 words or less) via e-mail to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org by May 20.

Please include your congregation, city and state.

Or respond online ...

The April issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:

The Little LutheranDon't let them miss another issue.
The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
Subscribe today ...

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Recent coversDid you know: An individual subscription to The Lutheran magazine is only $15.95 a year and includes a Web membership at no additional cost.

For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 800-328-4648.)

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