From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Receives Report on Church's Studies on Sexuality

Date Fri, 15 Aug 2003 18:50:55 -0500


August 15, 2003

ELCA Assembly Receives Report on Church's Studies on Sexuality

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) received a progress
report on the church's Studies on Sexuality.  The Rev. James M.
Childs Jr., director of the studies, delivered the report.
     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 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly asked the church to enter
into a process of study on homosexuality.  That assembly
requested a progress report on the studies for presentation to
the 2003 assembly and a final report with recommendations for
presentation to the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.  The 2001 assembly
also asked the ELCA Division for Church in Society to prepare a
social statement on human sexuality.
     Current ELCA policy expects ministers to refrain from all
sexual relations outside marriage.  Since the church has no
official policy on blessing same-gender relationships, this
precludes homosexuals in relationships from ordained ministry.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops, an advisory body to the church,
stated it does not approve of such ceremonies.
     Childs works closely with the church's Task Force for ELCA
Studies on Sexuality. The task force was assembled by the ELCA
Division for Ministry and Division for Church in Society in May
2002.  It assists the divisions in developing study materials,
recommendations and proposals regarding the assembly mandates.
     The first of the study materials was distributed in 2002.
It was based on "A Message on Sexuality: Some Common Convictions"
which the ELCA Church Council adopted in 1996.
     In his report to the assembly, Childs said the final draft
of the second study guide, "Journey Together Faithfully Part II:
The Church and Homosexuality" is being printed.  The guide will
be mailed to professional church leaders in September, and a
Spanish-text version of the study will be prepared, he said.
     The study booklet is "rich in the discussion of the Bible"
and "how we read it as Lutherans, how it speaks to us in the
matters before us.  The first two sessions are devoted almost
entirely to biblical concerns," Childs said.
     "A background paper on biblical interpretations will
accompany the study document and has been written by two of our
finest Bible professors, who despite their different views on the
subject, have set an example of working together to provide a
helpful, in-depth discussion of how different interpreters have
been working on the relevant text," he said.
     Childs said other sessions in the study guide will examine
the traditions of the church's teachings; the "diverse views and
experiences among us;" a reflection on sin, grace and moral
deliberations; and the contributions and limits of scientific
research on sexual orientation.
     Childs said the task force has "painstakingly" sought to be
fair and accurate in presenting the different voices and views
within our church.  "In each session, we highlight a basic theme
of our faith -- baptism, our membership in the communion of
saints, our Eucharistic fellowship, our center in justification
by faith, our baptism vocation and moral deliberation and our
call to gospel mission.  We want constantly to remember the
identity and community we have together in Christ," he said.
     "These themes of our faith underlie our call to an inclusive
dialogue of mutual respect among equals in Christian community
that is commended by the study and for which guidance and
resources are provided.  It reminds us that as we struggle with
questions regarding the blessing of gay and lesbian unions and
the rostering of persons in such committed unions that we do so
from the standpoint of our church's publically stated welcome to
all people," Childs told the assembly.
     "No one of us on the task force is unaware of the daunting
nature of the task that this church has set before itself.
Nonetheless, we are urging in the most urgent way, that you be
agents and leaders for promoting the broadest possible
participation," he said.
     Childs said the task force is committed to being of "one
mind in being a servant of the church."  He added that response
forms, located in the study booklet, will provide the task force
with the "foundation for the report and recommendations we are
charged to bring to the 2005 Assembly.	This is your chance to
shape the future discussion of our church, and we will be waiting
for your contributions."
     After Childs' report, the Rev. Margaret G. Payne, bishop of
the ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass., shared with the
assembly her "joy" in serving as chair of the task force.
     The two primary sources of Payne's joy is the task force's
ability to share responsibilities and the "holy listening" that
is received and given. She said the second source is the "new
hope" that has surfaced in the beginning months of the task
force's work.
     "This will not be a matter that divides our church, but
instead will be a discussion that will strengthen our church and
prepare us for many more difficult discussions and moral
deliberations that surely are in the years to come," Payne told
the assembly.
-- -- --
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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