From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Declines to Alter Studies on Sexuality Time Line

Date Sat, 16 Aug 2003 21:01:45 -0500


August 16, 2003

ELCA Assembly Declines to Alter Studies on Sexuality Time Line

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) declined Aug. 16 to
alter the time line set for the church's Studies on Sexuality
     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 called for a study that
would lead to possible recommendations to the 2005 Churchwide
Assembly on whether or not to bless same-gender relationships and
whether or not people in such relationships should be pastors of
the church.  The 2001 assembly also asked the ELCA Division for
Church in Society to draft and propose a social statement on
human sexuality.
     The ELCA Division for Ministry, which develops standards for
the church's pastors and lay ministers, and the Division for
Church in Society prepared a time line to conduct a joint
churchwide study of issues related to homosexuality to meet the
mandates of the 2001 assembly.	That study would inform the
drafting of a social statement on human sexuality for the 2007
Churchwide Assembly to consider.
     Seven of the ELCA's 65 synods passed resolutions -- also
known as "memorials" -- about that time line.  The ELCA Central-
Southern Illinois Synod affirmed the time line; the other six
synods said topics of human sexuality should be addressed before
the church makes policy decisions regarding homosexuality.  The
Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod said the decisions should be made
once a final report on human sexuality is presented; the Lower
Susquehanna, Nebraska and Northwestern Pennsylvania Synods said a
social statement on human sexuality should be adopted first; and
the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod said policy decisions
should be made two churchwide assemblies after the human
sexuality study is approved.
     The 2003 assembly's memorials committee recommended that
this assembly commend the current ELCA Studies on Sexuality and
decline to alter the time line.  With a vote of 687-278, the 2003
assembly accepted that recommendation.
     The assembly defeated an amendment to "alter the time line
established by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly by adopting, in 2007,
a social statement on human sexuality prior to the resolution, in
2007, of any specific decisions concerning the blessing of
committed same-gender relationships and the ordination of
approved candidates in committed same-gender relationships."  The
Rev. Carol S. Hendrix, bishop of the ELCA Lower Susquehanna
Synod, Harrisburg, Pa., presented the amendment to the assembly.
     Hendrix said the amendment is not designed to rescind the
actions of the 2001 assembly, "but to allow the social statement
on human sexuality to inform" the church's decisions concerning
the blessings of committed same-sex relationships and the
ordination of approved candidates in committed same-sex
     June C. Ericcson, voting member, ELCA Metropolitan
Washington, D.C., Synod, who spoke in opposition of the
amendment, said a delay in the time line "would be a serious
breach of trust and a betrayal of the promises we have made."
     Speaking in favor of the amendment, Ron Williamson, voting
member, ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod, asked whether or not the
task force can complete the work that it has been commissioned to
     In response to Williamson, the Rev. Margaret G. Payne,
bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass., and chair
of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, said the task
force "is a group of people formed to do the will of the
assembly.  Therefore, since we began work, we have been on a time
line preparing ourselves to produce the recommendations by 2005.
That was the task given to us, and that's what we're prepared to
do.  I think the sense of the conversation is more about whether
the church will be ready to do that at that time.  The task force
will do whatever the assembly directs."
     In a separate vote, the 2003 assembly defeated a resolution
that would suspend the ELCA's full communion relationship with
The Episcopal Church until after the conclusion of the ELCA's
Studies on Sexuality and until the ELCA has made a decision on
whether or not to bless same-gender relationships and whether or
not people in such relationships should be pastors or lay
ministers of the church.
     In a news conference hosted by the ELCA News Service, Payne
said the ELCA and the Episcopal Church are "totally separate
denominations and each one has its own integrity of ways that
actions are taken and the way we understand ourselves as church.
But there are closer partnerships and the possibility of exchange
of clergy and a variety of other ways in which we are in closer
ecumenical relationships."
     She said some people are "concerned that decisions,
particularly the Episcopal Church with the election of Bishop
Gene Robinson [Diocese of New Hampshire], might have some impact
on the ELCA's polity or policies of study.  And, that is not
true.  So, that confusion was cleared up, and I believe people
felt more comfortable about the fact that our process is
progressing along to make decisions on issues in one way, and the
decision of the Episcopal Church really is separate from what
[the ELCA] is doing.  Once that was cleared up, I think that
those who brought [the resolution] to vote was quite overwhelming
in support of the continuance of [the church's] study."
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at
http://www.elca/org/assembly/03 on the Web.

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

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home