A resolution that opens the possibility for ministers in same-sex relationships to serve in congregational ministries has been forwarded to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly for consideration at its Aug. 8-14 meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Drafted during the April 9-11 meeting of the ELCA Church Council — which serves as the ELCA board of directors — the resolution was one of three dealing with recommendations from the ELCA Task Force for Studies on Sexuality. The resolution would “create a process for the sake of outreach, ministry and the commitment to continuing dialogue, which may permit exceptions to the expectations regarding sexual conduct for gay or lesbian candidates and rostered leaders in lifelong, committed and faithful same-sex relationships who otherwise are determined to be in compliance” with the conduct the church expects of its ministers.
The LCMS, in a statement released last month by President Gerald B. Kieschnick and other church leaders, said the ELCA sexuality report was not faithful to the Scriptures. “This goes contrary to the historic and universal understanding of the Christian Church regarding what the Holy Scriptures teach about homosexual behavior as contrary to God’s will and about the biblical qualifications for holding the pastoral office,” the statement said.
The process proposed by the ELCA Church Council would grant an exception to the current ELCA policy, which expects gay and lesbian ministers to abstain from sexual relations. Because it involves bylaw changes, the resolution requires approval by two-thirds of the churchwide assembly.
The proposed process would begin with a congregation inviting a gay or lesbian person to serve in a ministry setting. If support is received from the synod bishop and governing council, the ELCA Conference of Bishops would be asked to permit the assignment of a gay or lesbian minister to the inviting congregation. The minister would be expected to provide “evidence of intent to live in a life-long, committed and faithful same-sex relationship,” the resolution states.
The ELCA council drafted two other resolutions based on the sexuality task force report. One resolution encouraged members and agencies of the ELCA to find ways to “live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements, recognizing the God-given mission and communion that we share as members of the body of Christ.”
The other resolutions asked ELCA membership to “continue to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops” and “welcome gay and lesbian persons into its life … [trusting] pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples.” The 1993 statement said gay and lesbian ministers are expected to abstain from sexual relations.
“It’s difficult for the council to see that we would have a policy and not enforce it,” said Carlos Pena, council chair and ELCA vice president. “At the same time, the council realized that it is a reality and, for the sake of outreach and ministry, we need to create some opportunity for candidates who are living in a committed relationship to be ordained and to provide ministry in specific locations.”
Posted April 28, 2005