The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has been conducting an ongoing study of human sexuality and homosexuality since 2001. The stated goals are to “deal with the blessing of same-gender unions and the rostering of persons in committed gay or lesbian relationships”, and “to lead to the development of a social statement on sexuality.”
The task force charged with this mission issued its recommendations this week. Among them:
[T]hat the ELCA:
+ concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.
+ continue to respect the pastoral guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships.
+ continue under the standards regarding sexual conduct for rostered leaders as set forth in “Vision and Expectations” and “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” but that, as a pastoral response to the deep divisions in the ELCA, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who…call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates whom they believe to be otherwise in compliance with “Vision and Expectations” and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called. (Emphasis added.)
Note the third recommendation. This basically gives local churches carte blanche to do whatever they want.
I read this as a policy of incrementalism. The ELCA administration knows it faces a revolt from some corners if it pushes the homosexual agenda too quickly, so it’s decided to advance the agenda a bit at a time.
A pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod comments:
What is happening is clear. ELCA leadership is, for the most part, in favor of embracing homosexuality as an appropriate lifestyle choice for Christians, as well as for its rostered pastors and other church workers. Throughout ELCA seminaries there is a very strong and active pro-homosexual agenda at work.
My sources indicate that there is no question that top leadership of the ELCA wants very much to follow the example of the Episcopalian Church USA and tolerate, condone and actively encourage actively homosexual clergy in its ranks. At ELCA headquarters in Chicago there was, last time I checked, a female pastor and another rostered ELCA woman church worker in a lesbian relationship, very openly known, to the point that the “couple” sent out announcements in the building regarding “their” child’s baptism, etc.
When ELCA leadership was pressed to explain how this is so, in direct violation of “formal policy,” the response was that this is a matter for the local ELCA Synod bishop to deal with, not the national leadership, and then nothing happened. The person who raised the concern was rebuked for being unloving and legalistic when he challenged the situation.
See also today’s Washington Times:
A Lutheran task force handed a victory to homosexual rights groups yesterday by recommending that although the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should not change its policy against ordaining homosexual clergy, it should not censure churches that break the rule.
But “those who feel conscience-bound to call people [as pastors] in committed same-sex unions should refrain from making the call a media event either as an act of defiance or with the presumption of being prophetic,” the task force warned.
Don’t ask, don’t tell, eh?
As with the frog in the stewpot, the water in the ELCA is getting warm.