Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ELCA's New Social Statement




ELCA NEWS SERVICE

October 12, 2007


Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality Works on Draft of Social Statement

07-165-MRC/JB

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality surveyed biblical, ethical and theological material that may be included in a draft of a social statement on human sexuality, and offered
further instructions for its writing team when it met here Oct. 5-6. A proposed social statement on human sexuality is due in early 2009.

The Rev. Peter Strommen, bishop, ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Duluth, and task force chair, said a primary objective of the meeting was for the task force "to continue work on the development of a first draft" of a social statement. The draft is scheduled to be made available to the church in early 2008.

"The church has given us the responsibility of writing a social statement, and we are working hard to do our best. We want it to be helpful to the church and faithful to its core convictions. Our task force, like the whole church, represents diverse backgrounds. There is genuine respect for one another, reflective of our unity in Christ, but we do not see all things in the same way," he said.

The task force's discussions on the draft material were conducted in closed, off-the-record sessions. "When social statements are in the actual process of being written, things are very fluid," said Strommen. "We are determining the statement design and structure and whether we have something that will do a good job," he said.

The task force is approaching its work from a biblical, ethical and theological perspective, said Strommen. "We ask ourselves, 'Will our approach be effective and fresh? Will it help us to explore the interconnection of individual, family and
society on these important matters?'" he asked.

The draft of the social statement will be distributed across the church for feedback, said Strommen. On the basis of that feedback the task force will reshape the document, he said. The task force will present a proposed document to the ELCA through the ELCA Church in Society program unit. The final proposed statement goes to the ELCA Church Council with a request to place the document on the agenda of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for action.

In an open session, the task force discussed the actions of the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly with David D. Swartling, Seattle, secretary-elect of the ELCA.

In a separate open session, the task force received a preliminary report on the church's response to "Free in Christ to Serve the Neighbor: Lutherans Talk about Human Sexuality" -- a study guide designed to engage members of the ELCA in thoughtful discussion and theological discernment on topics that may be addressed in an ELCA social statement on human sexuality. Responses are due Nov. 1.

In September the task force released an adaptation of the study called, "Free in Christ to Care for the Neighbor: Lutheran Youth Talk about Human Sexuality" -- a study designed for senior high-school-age members of the ELCA. Responses from youth are due Dec. 15.

The task force met with the ELCA Conference of Bishops in small groups on Oct. 6. Members of the conference commented on what they would like to see included in a draft of a social statement on human sexuality and discussed their hopes for the
ELCA following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary.

Among the bishops' comments were suggestions that the statement seek agreement on "core" teachings, that biblical interpretation and authority guide the statement, that it express a spirit of "humility," that the statement enhance mission, and that it engage ELCA members to discuss the topics in dialogue. Others expressed concern that the church somehow acknowledge that many members and leaders are "fatigued" by the continuing sexuality studies and process, and that they hoped that the conference could lead in a way that promotes unity, not division, in the church.

The Rev. Rebecca S. Larson, executive director, ELCA Church in Society, told the bishops that the social statement cannot directly address a 2007 Churchwide Assembly directive that the task force "specifically address and make recommendations to the
2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church." She said social statements are not intended to specifically address ministry policy. Instead, the task force response to the directive will be reported separately to the churchwide assembly
and will not be embedded in the social statement, said Larson.

The Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, agreed, saying the assembly action does not bind the task force to embed its response to the directive in the social statement.

After the draft of the social statement is made public in March 2008, a series of hearings will follow from March through October 2008, which is standard procedure for preparing social statements, said Larson. The proposed social statement itself will be made public in early 2009 and undergo review before it is transmitted to the churchwide assembly, she added.
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Information about the ELCA Studies on Sexuality is at htp://www.ELCA.org/faithfuljourney on the ELCA Web site. Information about "Free in Christ to Serve the Neighbor: Lutherans Talk about Human Sexuality" is at
http://www.ELCA.org/faithfuljourney/study and "Free in Christ to Care for the Neighbor: Lutheran Youth Talk about Human Sexuality" is at http://www.ELCA.org/faithfuljourney/youth on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

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GJ - Several things are worth noting - how long it will take to produce a new social statement (two years) followed by voting on the statement; how open and closed session meetings are held; how the statement will not include actual policy.

Twenty years ago the LCA ended its life by having a study of the same issue, using up the last of its cash to do so. I recall the 1987 study's Biblical expert using an assumption that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans. (Funny, I assumed the same thing!)

So what is this study going to do when the latest convention of ELCA voted to leave homesexual and lesbian partners alone in the parsonage? The study will be an expensive lobbying platform for one group only - the Lavender Mafia. Roughly 1-2% of the American population is setting the agenda for the whole country.

Each study or vote is advancing the same agenda, with plenty of influence on the old Synodical Conference as well (LCMS-WELS-ELS). ELCA is also promoting youth studies in the name of helping teens work out these problems.

ELCA works closely with Missouri and WELS, the two smaller groups looking at their big sister with awe, wonderment, amazement, and covetousness. The little ones would like to be as big, rich, and metrosexual as ELCA. There are no jokes for this situation. This agenda is surely the clearest sign of apostasy in the Lutheran Church.

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