News & Events » Memorial calling for opening dialog across the church about ministering to same-gender couples passed by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Memorial calling for opening dialog across the church about ministering to same-gender couples passed by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Bp HansonReconcilingWorks thanks all who worked so hard to bring this memorial resolution before their synod assembly for passage.

The memorial, “Conversations about Ministering to Same-Gender Couples and Families,” submitted by Eastern North Dakota, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Saint Paul Area, Sierra Pacific, Northwest Washington, Metropolitan Chicago, Minneapolis Area, Metropolitan New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Indiana-Kentucky, Southwestern Minnesota, Southwestern Pennsylvania and Metropolitan Washington, D.C. synods, was taken out of en bloc and brought to the floor separately for discussion and action. During the discussion there were no speakers in opposition, and, in the end, the assembly resoundingly passed the motion.

Assembly Action

To receive with the gratitude the memorials of the synods regarding Conversations about Ministering to Same-Gender Couples and Families;

To affirm the commitment made in the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust for “pastoral responsibility to all children of God,” recognizing “familial relationship as central to nurturing and sustaining trust and security in human relationships and to advocate for public policies that support and protect families” (pp. 19, 24);

To invite and encourage conversations and resource sharing among this church’s congregations, rostered and lay leaders and the Conference of Bishops on changing family configurations and their impact on society and the ministry of this church; and

To request the Church Council, in keeping with the recommendations of the Addressing Social Concerns Review Task Force, to authorize a group to explore this concern and to bring a report and possible recommendations to the fall 2014 meetings of the Conference of Bishops and Church Council regarding appropriate next steps in carrying out these commitments to pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families.

In its submission to the assembly the Memorials Committee gave this background:  

“The 2009 Churchwide Assembly adopted a social statement on human sexuality that recognized the ELCA’s “pastoral responsibility to all children of God,” including specifically “to those who are same-gender in their orientation and to those who are seeking counsel about their sexual self-understanding” (Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, p. 19). Moreover, the statement reaffirmed the ELCA’s commitment to support “same-gender couples and their families and to advocate for their legal protection,” including “legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services.”

“In this statement the ELCA “draws on the foundational Lutheran understanding that the baptized are called to discern God’s love in service to the neighbor. In our Christian freedom, we therefore seek responsible actions that serve others and do so with humility and deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of others” (p. 19).

“The social statement also notes that “consensus does not exist concerning how to regard same-gender committed relationships, even after many years of thoughtful, respectful, and faithful study and conversation” (p. 19). Four different “conscience-bound” beliefs regarding same-gender sexual behavior were identified. Nonetheless, despite these different convictions the ELCA “draws on the foundational Lutheran understanding that the baptized are called to discern God’s love in service to the neighbor. In our Christian freedom, we therefore seek responsible actions that serve others and do so with humility and deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of others” (pp. 19–20).

“The actions requested by the group of synodical memorials concerning “conversations about ministering to same-gender couples and families” are built on commitments made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement on human sexuality. However, the first resolved clause of the memorial from the Sierra Pacific Synod that requests legislative advocacy for same-gender couples and their families, specifically “the freedom to marry for all persons, extending equal protection under the law to all,” requires additional deliberative work before bringing a recommendation to the Churchwide Assembly, since there is no unambiguous endorsement of same-gender marriage in the ELCA’s existing social teaching or policy statements.

“The memorials express a desire to consider how to best address these social concerns. The ELCA Church Council, at its April 2013 meeting, adopted the recommendations of the Addressing Social Concerns Review Task Force (established at the request of the 2011 Churchwide Assembly). One recommendation called for a change in the process for addressing social concerns. It recommended that the Church Council initiate a formal exploration by a designated group that will recommend appropriate next steps.

“In recognition of the ELCA’s pastoral responsibility to same-gender couples, its commitment to legal protections, and its affirmation of familial relationships, the [action] is recommended. This action follows the Church Council action on addressing social concerns by referring the request to the Church Council.”