From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Addresses Care for Youth, Gay and Lesbian People

Date Fri, 15 Aug 2003 18:13:06 -0500


August 15, 2003

ELCA Assembly Addresses Care for Youth, Gay and Lesbian People

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) encouraged the
active participation of youth and young adults in the ELCA's
Studies on Sexuality and requested that the task force overseeing
the studies continue to include the concerns of young people in
its work.  The assembly also furthered the church's commitment to
pastoral care for gay and lesbian people.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial assembly
is "Making Christ Known:  For the Healing of the World."
     The assembly encouraged youth and young adults to
participate in the church's Studies on Sexuality through
discussions in congregations, synodical youth gatherings,
colleges and universities, at events sponsored by the ELCA's
Lutheran Youth Organization and in other settings.
     In the same action, the assembly also forwarded memorials --
resolutions from the ELCA's Southeastern Synod, Atlanta, Delaware-
Maryland Synod, Baltimore, and Metropolitan Washington, D.C.,
Synod -- related to pastoral care for gay and lesbian people to
the ELCA Conference of Bishops "as information."  The Conference
of Bishops is an advisory body of the church.
     In a "model resolution," the three synods -- at their
respective synod assemblies earlier this year -- encouraged the
Conference of Bishops to offer "a special message" of pastoral
care and concern to youth and adults in the church "who may be
wrestling with these issues of self-understanding," to affirm the
"principles of God's unconditional love" and to encourage pastors
of the ELCA to provide pastoral care and support for people who
struggle with homosexuality and human sexuality.
     The assembly defeated an amendment to "inform" the ELCA Task
Force for Studies on Sexuality "about the ethical and theological
risks which would be created if the ELCA were to advocate
therapies which claim to change someone's sexual orientation."
     Christina Lynn Kelton, voting member, ELCA Southeastern
Synod, presented the amendment.  Speaking to the amendment Kelton
said, "There are documented reports from the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services in 1989 which indicate that as many as
one-third of teen suicides in the country are over sexual
orientation struggles, which are caused by not only being told
but being forced to change their sexual orientation."  She added
that "youth, young adults and adults of all ages need support and
care, the type of care that can only be given by pastors or
another person of faith."
     Speaking in opposition to the amendment, Louis M. Hesse,
voting member, ELCA Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, Spokane, Wa.,
who identified himself as a member of the Task Force on the ELCA
Studies on Sexuality, said, "One of the underpinnings in our work
is that all viewpoints come to the task force.	There's nothing
to be censored or put emphasis on . everything is to come to the
task force for an open hearing."
     The 1991 Churchwide Assembly moved to "affirm gay and
lesbian people, as individuals created by God," to participate
fully in the life of congregations of the ELCA.  That welcome was
reaffirmed by the 1995 Churchwide Assembly, which also urged
Lutherans to "practice and teach biblical and confessional
guidance for speaking the truth in love."  In a 1996 letter to
the church, the Conference of Bishops wrote that congregations of
the ELCA be "safe places for those who are persecuted and
harassed in our society."
     At the direction of the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the
church is conducting a comprehensive four-year study on
homosexuality.	That assembly also asked for a social statement
on human sexuality.
     The task force, assembled by the ELCA Division for Ministry
and Division for Church in Society in May 2002, assists the
divisions in developing study materials, recommendations and
proposals regarding the assembly mandates.  It also oversees the
process for these studies in the church.
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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