I blogged earlier about the ELCA Conference of Bishops that met early in October. Each of the sixty-five regional synods is headed by a bishop. These bishops form the Conference of Bishops, and they are advisory to the Church Council, which in turn serves as the Churchwide governing body between the biennial Churchwide assemblies where the voting members hold ultimate authority over ELCA policy.
The early October Conference considered revisions to Ministry Policies in response to the actions of the Churchwide Assembly in August. That is, the 2009 Convention actions were in the nature of broad policy statements with implementation of the policy to be left to the Conference of Bishops and the Church Council. The Conference considered changes but deferred final action. Some, including Lutheran Core, called for the draft documents to be made public in the meantime, and the ELCA concurred. The documents are now available online.
The key portion of the existing policy reads:
Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.
Contrast that with the draft language:
Ordained ministers, whether single, married or in a publicly accountable, lifelong
monogamous, same-gender relationship, are expected to uphold an understanding of
marriage and family in their public ministry as well as in private life that is biblically
informed and consistent with the teachings of this church.
Should an ordained minister decide to marry or to enter a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, the counsel and guidance of the synodical bishop is to be sought and the minister shall make the decision known among those he or she serves.
Ordained ministers in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationship are expected to keep that relationship inviolate until death, to cultivate love and respect for their same-gender partner, and to seek counseling with their partner when it is needed. It is recognized that due to human sin and brokenness, in some cases such a relationship may have to be dissolved. Should an ordained minister and partner seek to end their relationship, the counsel and guidance of the synodical bishop is to be sought. Similarly, should the ordained minister, following the ending of the relationship, decide to enter another such relationship, the counsel and guidance of the synodical bishop is to be sought.
An ordained minister who is in a publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationship recognized and supported by an expression of this church is expected to live in fidelity to his or her partner, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a publicly accountable relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful.
A footnote elaborates and defines key terms:
The terms in the phrase “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender
relationship” are intended to have their common meanings. “Lifelong” means that the
relationship is intended to last as long as both parties to the relationship shall live.
“Monogamous” means that the relationship is between two people—one to one. “Same-gender” means that the relationship is between two men or two women. “Public accountability” means that the two parties to the relationship openly acknowledge the relationship, have a demonstrable commitment to the relationship, and have a willingness to seek and accept the aid of individuals and community in sustaining the relationship. For an ordained minister, both church and community are part of the public to which he or she is accountable. Public accountability for an ordained minister in a heterosexual marriage includes recognition and support in a congregation of this church and legally recorded civil recognition. Similarly, public accountability for an ordained minister in a lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship includes recognition and support in a congregation of this church and may include a legally recorded civil recognition and other evidence that the relationship is lifelong and monogamous. The ELCA social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” recognizes that within this church diverse convictions about homosexuality and about the rostered service of people in same-gender relationships are faithfully held on the basis of Scripture. The ELCA intends both to allow the rostered service of people who are in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship and to provide for those whose convictions do not favor such service.
Remember, these changes are not yet in effect, and the draft documents may be changed before final approval, which is not expected for several months.
#ELCA, #CWA09, #LMCACORE