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ELCA Assembly Adopts Social Statement on Human Sexuality

Posted by: LWi on Aug 22, 2009 – 12:17 AM | Read 915 times

LWF President Underscores Focus on Church Witness
MINNEAPOLIS, United States of America/GENEVA, 20 August 2009 (LWI) – The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has adopted a social statement on human sexuality, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" with a vote of 676 (66.67 percent) to 338 (33.33 percent). Its adoption on 19 August required a two-thirds vote.

"Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" is the denomination’s 10th social statement. Social statements assist Lutherans in their moral deliberation, govern the ELCA’s institutional policies and guide the church’s advocacy work. The statement addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective.

The ELCA Churchwide Assembly is taking action on two separate documents this week. In addition to the social statement, a proposal on ministry policies could lead to policy changes allowing gay and lesbian pastors in committed, same gender relationships to officially serve on the roster of the 4.6 million member church.

Prior to the assembly vote, speakers opposed to the social statement said they believed endorsing the document would abandon the church’s reliance on the Bible and separate the Lutheran denomination from the majority of Christendom. But those favoring the document insisted that a greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church and its ministry is consistent with the command to care for one’s neighbor and to build trusting relationships.

Speaking earlier at a 17 August news conference as the ELCA opened its eleventh biennial assembly, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said a respectful discussion on sexuality by the church would demonstrate that while Lutherans may not be "of one mind," they can still be "united in faith and in our shared mission together."

Hanson is also president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to which the ELCA belongs.

"We have an opportunity this week to bear witness in a culture that often wants to polarize and see all questions in their polar opposites," Hanson noted. The bishop said he was confident that the church could learn to live with its differences.

Questioned about his own preference on the sexuality issues facing the ELCA, Hanson said he believed his call was to "shepherd this church" through the discussion and, as LWF president, represent Lutherans worldwide, including those who are strongly opposed to the changes being discussed by the ELCA.

The ELCA will also vote on a proposal to establish full communion with the United Methodist Church, allowing for combined congregations and exchange of clergy and members, among other actions.

Addressing the assembly, Hanson asked "What shall be our witness this week?" He suggested 15 ways the church might answer the question over the next eight years. These included increased scriptural fluency, a fully implemented strategy on HIV and AIDS, a totally green assembly in 2013, a social statement on justice for women, and a commitment to mission by all congregations, among other points.

He invited listeners to "think ahead eight years … looking back from 2017," the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, on "what … we want our witness to have been."

"This assembly’s discussions and decisions will shape our witness," Hanson said. "So, too, will responses that are made to our actions," he added.

Information about the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at: http://www.ELCA.org/assembly

(A compilation from ELCA News Service articles)
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