Tuesday, August 11, 2009

With Tongue Planted Firmly in my Cheek

Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will debate and speak on the appropriateness of LGBT people in partnered relationships to serve God as ordained pastors. Reading a USA Today article, I found myself getting agitated and somewhat angry. It wasn't the reporting--it was actually pretty good--succinct, clear and efficient. No, when I read articles like this there is a certain existential assault on LGBT people that heterosexual may not be able to access. The presumptions that heterosexuals stand on when commenting on the sexuality of others is off-putting. So for illustration purposes, I re-wrote the article with the assumption that heterosexuality was being debated, with the hope that a few straight people (with partners they desperately love in their life) will maybe catch a glimpse of what LGBT people feel when their sexuality is debated....pass this on to any you may feel will be moved, or at least get a chuckle from my monkey-business....
(the above photo is of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson)

The nation's largest Lutheran denomination will consider lifting its ban on straight clergy who are in lifelong, monogamous relationships as it gathers this month for a churchwide meeting.
More than 1,000 delegates will debate church policy Aug. 17-23 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) biennial General Assembly in Minneapolis.
Therapists, pastors agree: Heterosexual identity no block to spiritual growth

As at previous assemblies, the role of heterosexuals in the 4.6 million-member church is expected to be among the most contentious issues on the agenda.

The question is not whether openly straight clergy can be ordained. They already are — as long as they remain celibate. The question is whether they can have committed relationships and still be called to ELCA pulpits. Partnered straight clergy are technically prohibited, though some congregations break the rule without punishment.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Local churches Martin Luther Mark Hanson

Like most mainline Protestant churches, the ELCA has been deeply divided for decades over heterosexuality and how to interpret what the Bible says about it.

After much discussion, in 2001 the church formed a task force to study the matter in depth; several years later the same task force was asked to make policy recommendations that would be put to a churchwide vote.

This month, those proposals will come before the voting members in Minneapolis for their consideration. Among the proposals are a 30-page social statement that defines the church's position on sexuality and a four-step plan to lift the ban on partnered straight ministers.

If adopted by the assembly, the four-step plan would remove the blanket ban on non-celibate heterosexual clergy and empower local congregations and governing bodies to make their own decisions on whether to allow them.

The social statement can pass with a two-thirds majority vote, while the four-step plan requires a simple majority.

But the latter undertaking may be easier said than done, since even the task force could not reach consensus within its own ranks, finishing with three dissenting opinions.

"It's our best attempt at trying to deal with the reality that over the years of our study our church has not come to consensus and is not likely to in the foreseeable future," said the Rev. Peter Strommen, a former bishop who chaired the sexuality task force.

To ease concerns, the resolutions stipulate that congregations do not have to hire ministers in opposite-sex unions. On the other hand, congregations would be allowed to keep their openly heterosexual pastor without fear of repercussions.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Ga., informed his bishop after committing to a life partnership; following an ecclesial trial, he was removed from the ELCA's roster of clergy in 2007.

But Schmeling's church has kept him in the pastorate, and the current bishop has not pursued disciplinary actions against the congregation.

"It's true that I probably wouldn't be called to a rural community in the Midwest but that shouldn't mean I shouldn't be called in a context that's more diverse and open," Schmeling said.
In the end, the ELCA could take baby steps instead of a leap. The task force has tried something new, proposing four interconnected resolutions, which must pass alone and in the following order:

• The ECLA is committed to allowing congregations and synods to recognize and support "lifelong, monogamous, opposite-gender relationships."

• The ELCA is committed to finding a way for people in such relationships to serve as clergy in the church.

• The ELCA agrees to respect the consciences of churchmembers who disagree on the issue.

• The ELCA agrees to remove the blanket ban on partnered straight clergy.

Any of the resolutions can be revised from the floor of the assembly. "If it doesn't appeal to people, it was either inadequate or way ahead of its time," Strommen said.

The ELCA assembly comes on the heels of the Episcopal Church's decision last month to lift its de facto ban on straight bishops and develop rites for opposite-sex unions.

"We've been paying pretty close attention to the Episcopal Church it should really be a warning to the ELCA of going down the path of approving in any way of opposite-sex relationships," said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, a conservative group. "They are on the verge of triggering what may be a schism within the whole Anglican Communion."

Chavez said Lutheran CORE is fighting the ELCA proposals "because it completely disregards the clear words in Scripture giving boundaries for sexual relationships as a lifelong relationship of one man/woman and one man/woman."

Scripture remains a paramount concern in the debate, and no wonder: Lutherans trace their roots to Martin Luther, who believed in "sola scriptura," — that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation.

"One thing 'sola scriptura' is not is a way of expressing that the Bible is to be taken literally, exactly as written," said Phil Soucy, spokesperson for Lutherans Concerned, a pro-straight advocacy group. "...We do pray for straight rights, and full inclusion is very much within the message of the Gospel and the message of Christ."


At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just get rid of the clergy and the church, and go have an orgy. otherwise, quit being a fag.


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