(Minneapolis, August 14) Faithful Lutherans who believe in full inclusion of all people in the life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gather in Minneapolis to witness to the church that God does not discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They come as voting members, visitors, and congregational observers, both clergy and lay, to the biennial Churchwide Assembly being held in the Convention Center, August 17—23, 2009.
They come full of hope to ask the assembly to pass the Social Statement on Human Sexuality, a major step-stone in the path to equal understanding and treatment, and the Recommendation on Ministry Policies, which proposes ending discrimination by allowing ministers in committed, same-gender, lifelong relationships to serve in congregations who want their ministry while not requiring any congregations to do so — thus ending the man-made ban in force for 20 years.
Goodsoil, a coalition of Lutheran organizations advocating for full inclusion, gathers to prayerfully witness to the truth that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are and always have been part of the wondrous creation of God.
Speaking for Goodsoil, Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned / North America, said "The Social Statement emphasizes family as foundational in the life of society and the church, views family as the place where growth and development both physical and spiritual happen, and holds up family as a place of trust and safety - faithful LGBT Lutheran families around the church are living proof that the words of Christ and the work of the church continue despite the lack of full inclusion. Now is the time to pass the Social Statement. Now is the time to have but one high standard for all our ministers. Now is the time to live together in the midst of our disagreements for the sake of the mission of the church."
These are contentious issues, with good, faithful Lutherans advocating strongly on both sides of the questions. Emily continued, "Lutherans disagree on many significant issues. Lutherans in the pews every Sunday have differing and strongly held opinions on abortion, capital punishment, the ordination of women, wine or grape juice in the service, war, apostolic succession, and differing interpretations of Scripture. Allowing ministers to serve who are in committed, lifelong same-gender relationships will not be required of those congregations that do not wish it, nor will it be prevented for those that do. This is very Lutheran."
Thirty-eight synods of the 65 in the ELCA have asked the assembly to pass the Social Statement; only 5 have asked the assembly to reject it. Thirty-four synods have asked the assembly to do away with the discriminatory policy; only 12 have asked that it be maintained.
There are those who say that adopting these two actions will harm the church's relationship with other Christian denominations. To that Emily says, "We ordain women, not because all or any of the other Lutheran or Christian denominations agree that we should, but because it is right for the Holy Spirit and right for us. When we change towards full inclusion, when we pass the Social Statement, when we adopt the recommendation on ministry service, it will also be because it is right for the Holy Spirit and right for us. Our prayer is that this is that time."
Further she says, "In a world where 3 nations in Africa and 4 elsewhere put people to death for being in a same-gender relationship, or simply being gay or lesbian, passing both the Social Statement and the change to ministry policy lights a bright beacon for all to see about the meaning of lives lived following Christ and the Gospel."
As to the authority of Scripture in these matters, Emily said "The authority of scripture is not at issue in the discussions of full inclusion. Rather, it is the interpretation of scripture where disagreement flares. Our finest Lutheran scholars debate the meaning of certain passages. As Lutherans we struggle with arguments and prefer peace; we like to be nice. As humans we long for certainty. The faithful witness of LGBT Lutherans and their families flies in the face of previous belief, not unlike the witness of Galileo when the Church deemed that the earth was the center of the universe. Our context has changed, and with it, our understanding. As Reinhold Neibuhr powerfully argues, Christians must live with the tension of "having and not having the truth." Still, in the midst of our disagreements we believe with Luther that the Holy Scriptures form "the cradle that holds the Christ child" bearing God's redeeming love for humankind to the world. Our unity in the Body of Christ does not depend on uniformity. The Body of Christ is a gift, not an option."
Goodsoil is a collaboration of organizations working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families in the full ministerial and sacramental life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Goodsoil works to reconcile our church's policies and practices regarding same-gender marriage, blessings of covenanted unions, and the rostering of partnered LGBT ministers, harmonizing these with our shared values of faith, trust, commitment, monogamy, mutuality, and dignity. Goodsoil is comprised of Lutherans Concerned / North America (www.lcna.org), The Network for Full Inclusion (www.inclusivenet.com), and Wingspan Ministry (www.stpaulref.org/wingspan).
About Lutherans Concerned
Working at the intersection of oppressions, Lutherans Concerned / North America (LC/NA) embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. LC/NA is based in St Paul, Minnesota.
Media contact: Phil Soucy