To be quite honest, as I read the statement, I found myself straining to find much in the way of Good News, at least in regards to repenting of the horrendous way Christians have treated gay and lesbian persons. It seemed like a very "safe" statement. But, perhaps since I'm still getting used to writing once again without censors looking over my shoulder, I just left that conclusion up to all of you.
Today, I came across an article that says pretty much what I wanted to say, if I had fully recovered my voice. It is written by Candace Chellew-Hodge, the founder/editor of Whosoever and author of A Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. It is entitled Lutherans Reap the Whirlwind, although I kind of fancy her alternative title ("God Breaks Wind on the Lutherans"). Now, if that doesn't get you curious enough to go read her essay...then just move along, folks, because nothing that follows will entice you further!
Here's the part that needed to be said by someone:
...The human sexuality document, meanwhile, is a tepid testament to much ballyhooed, but ultimately ineffectual church councils. It affirms marriage as being between a man and a woman and simply outlines all the different beliefs around homosexuality (that some say it's wrong and some say it's right) and urges Lutherans to stop throwing chairs at each other over the issue. So, it's simply an acknowledgement that people disagree on this issue and we should all get along, with the help of God. Yawn. So much for bold statements from the ELCA.If Christendom is to recover from the extremist reputation we have earned by being too timid while self-serving bigots grabbed the spotlight and trashed our tradition, it is time for bold moves. We must recognize that what is called "playing it safe" is actually condemning an innocent minority to appease the personal biases of the extremists. That may be safe, but it most certainly is not just.
If the ELCA wants to see how to make a bold statement on human sexuality, they need to check out the UCC statement from its 2005 Synod where it gave its unqualified support to marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Launch another council and study this statement – then you'll know what it looks like to take a bold stand for God's unconditional love of all in the world. They may also want to study the Episcopal Church's recent decision to trash its de facto moratorium on gay and lesbian bishops. That's another example of a church boldly becoming society's headlights instead of always being the taillights...
This story is not over, however. Tomorrow the ELCA will have one last chance to make a bold move, as Candace notes:
...The ELCA does have a chance to make that bold statement as they take up the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies before the week is through. Here is where they get a chance to either affirm God's call to gay and lesbian ministers or toss them under the ecclesiastical bus like they've done for so many years...One would hope that the Lutherans have been paying attention to the saga of the Episcopal Church. We have also thrown some of our members under that bus a few times. We all remember the fiasco known as B033, in which we heeded the call for "sacrifice," so that the Bishops could go to Lambeth. Other than that, our self-imposed "restraint" accomplished nothing. Foreign Primates continued to pillage our churches. Blatant lies and threats of violence were still hurled at our Church. And now, with the development of an Anglican Covenant, the Communion is asking us to once again compromise our integrity and abandon our members for the sake of the illusion of unity.
But, I believe TEC has learned her lesson. I don't think we'll entertain any ideas of a Covenant now, or in the years to come. Sacrificing members of the Body of Christ (without asking their permission, btw) will not soothe the rage of the extremists. It will only embolden them further.
I pray the Lutherans will be bold, and be willing to risk much for the sake of the Gospel, the message of the redemptive power of God's radically inclusive love.
Pray for the Church.