From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Task Force Makes Recommendation on Ministry Policies

Date Thu, 19 Feb 2009 12:15:08 -0600

Title: ELCA Task Force Makes Recommendation on Ministry Policies

>February 19, 2009  

ELCA Task Force Makes Recommendation on Ministry Policies

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The 15-member Task Force for the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on
Sexuality released Feb. 19 a "Report and Recommendation on
Ministry Policies" for the professional leadership of the church.

On the basis of study and "listening to this church,"
members of the task force developed a report and recommendation
for the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- the church's chief
legislative body -- to consider as regards the church's current

For Lutheran pastors and other professional leaders in the
ELCA, the church requires that sexual intimacy "be within the
context of marriage."  The church understands marriage as between
a man and a woman.  Gay and lesbian Lutherans serve as ordained
ministers in the ELCA but are expected to abstain from engaging
in same-gender sexual intimacy.

The report focuses on changing the policy that "ordained
ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are
expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships" -- as
stated in the ELCA's "Vision and Expectations" for ordained
ministers.  The same expectation is expressed in policies for
professional lay leaders of the church.

The task force's report also highlights areas of
disagreement and agreement among ELCA members regarding current
policy.  Some members of the ELCA support continuation of the
policy, and some members advocate for change.  Lutherans have
asserted "their positions with varying degrees of certainty," the
report said.

The task force acknowledged that there is neither "a
consensus -- a general agreement -- nor any emerging consensus"
either within the ELCA or within other faith communities in North
America, according to its report.  The task force stated that
ELCA members "must seek a common way to live and serve in the
midst of disagreements."

"Through careful listening to this church and to one another
other, task force members share a sober appreciation for the
depth of disagreement on this matter.  We also share a longing
for church unity," said the Rev. Peter Strommen, Shepherd of the
Lake Lutheran Church, Prior Lake, Minn., and task force chair.
"Our hope is that a way can be found to live in the unity of the
gospel amidst our differences."

The task force recommended that a process begin with the
churchwide assembly, "declaring its intention about what it wants
to do," according to the report.  It proposed four steps to be
taken consecutively.  If the assembly agrees to the first, then
the second, third and fourth would be considered only if the
preceding steps have been approved.

The first step asks the assembly whether it is committed "to
finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do
so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong,
monogamous, same-gender relationships," said the report.

The second step asks the assembly whether it is committed to
finding a way for Lutherans in committed, same-gender
relationships to serve as ELCA professional leaders -- clergy,
associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses.

If steps one and two are accepted, step three asks the
assembly to commit to implementing steps one and two "in such a
way that all this church bear the burdens of the other, love the
neighbor, and respect the bound conscience of any with whom they
disagree."  According to the report, "decisions about policy that
serve only the interests of one or another group will not be

Step four presents a proposal for how the ELCA could move
toward change "in a way that respects the bound conscience of
all," said the report.  The fourth step is different from the
previous steps in that it is "not simply a commitment in
principle, but makes a specific recommendation for flexibility
within existing structures and practices of this church to allow
for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-
gender relationships to be approved" for professional service in
the ELCA, stated the report.

The task force's report and recommendation on ministry
policies completes a directive from the 2007 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly to address and make recommendations on changes to
policies that preclude Lutherans in committed, same-gender unions
from the ELCA's professional rosters.

The 2001 assembly directed the church to study homosexuality
with reference to two topics -- the blessing of same-sex unions
and the "ordination, consecration and commissioning of people in
committed, same sex unions."  It also asked the church to develop
a social statement on human sexuality.

"Human Sexuality:  Gift and Trust" -- the proposed social
statement developed by the task force -- was also released Feb.
19.  The proposed social statement and the report and
recommendation on ministry policies are two separate documents.

The documents are open to review by the ELCA Church Council
-- the church's board of directors -- when it meets here March
27-30, and they will be considered by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly, Aug. 17-23, in Minneapolis.
- - -

The task force's "Report and Recommendations on Ministry
Policies" is available at on
the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog: 

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