ELCA Assembly: Was God in Either Whirlwind?
The problem is that the statement focuses on conscience where it should focus on God's commandments in the moral ordering of the Christian life, three dissenting members of the ELCA task force on sexuality said earlier this year:
By focusing on trust, freedom, and love of neighbor, the social statement … strains forward to see what God might be doing anew within the community of faith, particularly in regards to conduct of persons who are homosexual, rather than building on the foundation depicted in the creation accounts of Genesis. The concept of freedom of the Christian, while helpful in our understanding of salvation by faith alone, cannot be the justification for a lifestyle and behavior contrary to the biblical witness and the moral tradition. … By centering on justification by faith, the social statement minimizes the role of the Law in Christian life, contrary to Luther's exposition of the Christian life in the catechisms, and is at odds with the Lutheran Confessions.
Lutherans Concerned, the main LGBT advocacy group within the denomination, hailed the vote as a victory: "There is still much work to do, but the door to full inclusion of LGBT members and their families is now most definitely open."
Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) decried the document: "We mourn the decision by the Churchwide Assembly to reject the clear teaching of the Bible that God's intention for marriage is the relationship of one man and one woman. It is tragic that such a large number of ELCA members were willing to overturn the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been believed and confessed by Christians for nearly 2,000 years."
Jaynan Clark, WordAlone's president, was blunt: "It is appropriate that we call this a 'social' statement for we have just swapped society's statements and trends for God's Word and teaching."
Still, the bigger battle is probably still to come: On Friday, the gathering will consider a change that would allow churches to call pastors and other church leaders "in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."
(Update: On Friday, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to allow "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church." See the CT Liveblog for more updates.)
Copyright © 2009 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Christianity Today's earlier coverage includes:
Seven Years in the Making, Draft ELCA Statement on Sexuality Punts | "This church does not have consensus," committee says. (March 14, 2008)
Moving to 'Acceptance' | Mainline Lutheran assembly urges bishops not to discipline gay ministers. (September 12, 2007)
'Compromise' Settles Nothing | ELCA assembly opens door to same-sex blessings (September 14, 2005)