By Roland Lovstad
LCMS staff at national and district levels are emphasizing careful, evangelical considerations as they explore the implications of an opinion from the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) that placement of foster or adopted children into homosexual contexts conflicts with the Synod’s doctrinal position.
“Broadly, I think everyone wants to stay in conversation to find the best solution that will allow us to continue to provide the important services to children, yet not compromise our faith,” said Barbara Below, director of social ministry organizations with LCMS World Relief/Human Care.
Below noted that 27 LCMS-affiliated social service organizations — often with titles like Lutheran Social Services or Child and Family Services — provide adoption and foster placement services in 21 states, which include 19 LCMS districts.
“It’s a critical issue because we have a long history of providing foster placement and adoptions through Lutheran care agencies,” she said.
The CTCR posted the opinion June 21 on its Web site. The opinion was requested in early May by Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief/ Human Care.
“On the basis of the clear teaching of Scripture regarding homosexual behavior and about God’s will and design for marriage and the family as foundational units for society as a whole, it is the opinion of the CTCR that a policy of placing adopted or foster children into homosexual contexts would stand in opposition to the official doctrinal position of the LCMS,” the commission said in its opinion.
The CTCR noted that Scripture does not specifically address questions concerning adoption or foster care, but the opinion said the Bible clearly teaches that homophile behavior is intrinsically sinful, that same-sex unions are contrary to the will of the Creator, and that the God-given union of husband and wife in marriage is the proper context for human procreation.
The opinion also cited LCMS convention resolutions that emphasized those positions.
Issues about placing adopted or foster children in the households of same-sex couples became news this year when Catholic Charities of Boston announced it would end a 20-year service contract because Massachusetts state law required that homosexuals be allowed to adopt. The agency’s request for an exemption was rejected by the state. The Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI has called homosexual adoption “gravely immoral” because it deprives children of either fatherhood or motherhood.
Below expressed confidence that LCMS Recognized Service Organizations, often affiliated with both the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, want to provide a solution that continues services for children in accordance with the doctrine and practice of the Synod.
“My general feeling is that no one wants to come to any quick decision that brings a hammer down and forces anyone into a position that is not helpful for the organization or for the children,” she commented. “I think it is our responsibility to faithfully stay in dialog to try to find a solution. But we cannot compromise our beliefs.”
At its June 1-3 convention, the LCMS New England District, which includes congregations in Massachusetts, adopted a resolution directing the district president to request Lutheran Social Services of New England to refrain from further adoptions or foster placements to lesbian and homosexual couples. A delegate brought the resolution to the floor committee during the convention.
Three days after the convention, NED President James Keurulainen met with the LSSNE Board of Directors, which immediately responded by asking him, the bishop of the ELCA’s New England Synod, and the agency’s executive director to appoint a committee of laymen and pastors to address the concern. Keurulainen said he expects some report to the next board meeting in September.
“When I spoke to the LSSNE board, I said it was not my intention to put before them an ultimatum,” Keurulainen told Reporter.
“I want to find a resolution that is God-pleasing and allows us to work together. I strongly want us to work together. At the same time this is a serious issue we need to address in a way that is pleasing to our Lord.”
Keurulainen and the bishop of the ELCA New England Synod both serve as ex-officio members of the LSSNE board. He said the two church bodies and the agency have had an excellent relationship and he wants to do “everything I can in good conscience” to preserve it.
“It looks like we’re out in the forefront. I know the Lord has a solution that is consistent with His will and with the Scriptures,” he added. “We have to find it.”
State anti-discrimination laws and regulations are as varied as the number of states in which social service agencies operate, according to Below. As a result, the implications of the CTCR opinion will vary from one place to another.
“On the whole we have heard different things from agencies,” she said. She explained that some states have laws, regulations, or policies that are set by either the state, county, or city in which the organizations operate. Some licensing authorities permit exemptions from certain regulations, while others do not.
“It’s a challenge for our human-care organizations to meet the needs of children and offer services to the community while at the same time maintaining integrity according to our faith,” Below said.
Posted June 30, 2006