Registration What is the relationship between the Sexuality Statement and the Ministry Policy proposals?

They are complementary but not interdependent.  One could be passed without the other.  One is a teaching document and a statement of understanding, which does not address  specific church policies or procedures, and the other is purely policy and procedure.  The social statement provides intellectual support for gays and lesbians to be fully included in the life of the church while the Ministerial policy document provides the actual mechanism for allowing gays and lesbians to become ordained clergy.

While passing both would be logically consistent, that may not happen because Social Statements require a 2/3 majority, according to the ELCA constitution, while a change in Ministry policy merely requires a simple majority.  It is more than conceivable that the votes will be sufficient to pass the Ministry policy changes but insufficient to pass the Social Statement.

The common adage is that we don’t talk about religion and politics in polite conversation.  To that may be added, “and we certainly don’t talk about sex.”  Well, the Lutherans do.  Honestly.  Candidly.

The document stretches to 32 pages.  Click here to see the whole document.  In its essence, it speaks of relationship and trust.  Here is a sampling.

God created human beings to be in relationship with each other and continually blesses us with diverse powers, which we use in living out those relationships. These include powers for action, reasoning, imagination, and creativity.

Sexuality especially involves the powers or capacities to form deep and lasting bonds, to give and receive pleasure, and to conceive and bear children. Sexuality can be integral to the desire to commit oneself to life with another, to touch and be touched, and to love and be loved. Such powers are complex and ambiguous. They can be used well or badly. They can bring astonishing joy and delight. Such powers can serve God and serve the neighbor. They also can hurt self or hurt the neighbor. Sexuality finds expression at the extreme ends of human experience: in love, care, and security; or lust, cold indifference, and exploitation.

Sexuality consists of a rich and diverse combination of relational, emotional, and physical interactions and possibilities. It surely does not consist solely of erotic desire. Erotic desire, in the narrow sense, is only one component of the relational bonds that humans crave as sexual beings. Although not all relationships are sexual, at some level most sexual relationships are about companionship. Although some people may remain single, either intentionally or unintentionally, all people need and delight in companionship and all are vulnerable to loneliness.

The need to share our lives with others is a profound good (Genesis 2:18). The counsel to love and care for the neighbor is not a command that is foreign to our created natures; rather, reaching out in love and care is part of who we are as relational and sexual beings. Even if we never have sexual intimacy, we all seek and respond to the bonds and needs of relationships.

Sexual love—the complex interplay of longing, erotic attraction, self-giving and receiving defined by trust is a wondrous gift. The longing for connection, however, also can render human beings susceptible to pain, isolation, and harm. The desire for sexual love, therefore, does not by itself constitute a moral justification for sexual behavior. Giving and receiving love always involves mixed motives and limited understanding of individual and communal consequences.

The sharing of love and sexual intimacy within the mutuality of a mature and trusting relationship can be a rich source of romance, delight, creativity, imagination, restraint, desire, pleasure, safety, and deep contentment that provide the context for individuals, family, and the community to thrive. (emphasis added)

Waiting to speak Yesterday at the Convention, little happened legislatively, but the day was set aside for debate, dialogue, and discussion.  Here is a summary provided by Phil Soucy, the Director of Communications for Lutherans Concerned, North America (one of the advocacy groups operating under the Goodsoil umbrella).

The principal activity on the assembly floor was related to the Social Statement on Human Sexuality.  First, it was introduced onto the floor of the assembly.  Following the introduction, the assembly went into a quasi-Committee of the Whole, for the purpose of having a discussion without the encumbrance of parliamentary procedure.  People simply lined up at the microphones labeled Red and Green depending on whether they were against or for the adoption of the Social Statement.  The Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, using a computer program that kept track of who arrived in the line at the mic when, called on people alternating between against and for until he ran out of time or people to call on.

More time had to be allocated because things ran late in the morning, and part of the afternoon had to be used to finish out the 60 minutes allotted for this discussion.

Later that afternoon there was a hearing held on the Social Statement, among other hearings.  There was also a hearing before dinner on the Ministry Policies and one after – to allow those who went to the Social Statement hearing to go to one on Ministry Policies.

I will not bother to tell you the arguments that were made.  You are perfectly capable of guessing all of the arguments from both sides.  They have been made over and over again.  I heard no argument, pro or con, that I had not heard before.  That does not mean that the arguments should not be made.  They should be.

It is important to note that the disagreement we have with those opposed to full inclusion is not over the authority of Scripture in the life of the church, or in the life of any member of the church.  Scholars disagree on the interpretations of Scripture, and that is something Lutherans can do till the Second Coming.  Questioning someone else’s interpretation of Scripture does not constitute an assault on the authority of Scripture.  (emphasis added)

Legislative action on the social statement is scheduled for this afternoon.  The proposed changes in Ministry policy (allowing gay and lesbian ordination) will be considered tomorrow.