Church liberals are calling the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) adoption of a “social
statement on human sexuality” a victory despite its conflicting
views on gay relationships.
The 1,045 voting ELCA representatives
meeting this week in Minneapolis, Minnesota approved the social
statement titled Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust by a large
majority (66%) on Wednesday, the AP reported.
“The social statement now forms the
basis for policy and advocacy on issues related to families and
sexuality both for ministry and advocacy in church and society,”
Emily Eastwood, executive director of Goodsoil, a coalition of
gay-inclusive Lutheran groups, said in a statement.
The social statement offers diverse
viewpoints on gay relationships. It simultaneously affirms that
“some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful,
contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural
law,” and that others “believe that the neighbor and community
are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with
lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same
rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual
cheered its passage, saying, “This is a day of progress and
compromise. … The social statement is tolerant of our differences
both in scriptural interpretation and practice. The social statement
supports our unity without requiring uniformity. There is still much
work to do, but the door to full inclusion of LGBT members and their
families is now most definitely open.”
Passage of the social statement is
widely viewed as a positive sign that ELCA representatives will vote to
allow pastors in gay relationships to remain in the church.
On Friday, Lutherans will consider a
proposal that repeals the church's ban on non-celibate gay pastors
from leading churches. In ways, the proposal only acknowledges
changes already taking place in the church.
Since the early 1990s the church has
taken in gay and lesbian pastors, so long as they promise to remain
celibate. But the reality on the ground is that several churches now
say they are being led by pastors in gay relationships. The church
officially removes these gay pastors from the ELCA clergy roster, but
they often remain in their positions.
Church liberals won their first step
towards passage of the proposal on Monday when they managed to stave
off a move by conservatives that would have required a two-thirds
majority to win approval, rather than a simple majority. Only 43
percent of representatives supported the change.
“We are encouraged and hopeful that
on Friday this foundation [approval of the social statement] will
result in the church's elimination of the current ban on ministers in
committed same gender relationships,” Goodsoil's Eastwood said.