Skip to comments.A STATEMENT OF PASTORAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONCERN A RESPONSE TO ELCA SEXUALITY TASK FORCE
Posted on 03/02/2005 1:05:10 PM PST by lightman
A STATEMENT OF PASTORAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONCERN A RESPONSE TO THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE TASK FORCE FOR ELCA STUDIES ON SEXUALITY
We are grateful to every member of the Task Force for their time, commitment, and effort, and accept the invitation welcoming the prayers, responses, and admonitions of all our partners. In response to that request, and based on our careful review of the Report and its recommendations, we maintain that the third and primary recommendation of the Task Force, contrary to its stated intention, threatens to destabilize the unity and constitution, as well as the historical, biblical, and confessional teachings and practice of this church. Further, this final proposal places the first two, although in principle containing some assertions that are indeed admirable and commendable, into an interpretative context that makes them objectionable as well.
The most conspicuous logical inconsistency in the Task Forces Report is that in the name of a no change in policy it advocates a fundamental shift in policy. It asks the church to refrain from disciplining those who . . . call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates whom they believe to be otherwise in compliance with Vision and Expectations and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved or called (7). Unable to make a recommendation that would resolve the issue of gay/lesbian ordination and/or blessings through legislative action based on Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, the Task Force proposes that permission for such activities be granted on the basis of conscience and a pastoral approach in lieu of the traditional criteria employed by this church. This proposal, in our view, suffers from several flaws. We offer the following theological observations:
Ecclesiology By using the language of this approach  instead of this change in policy the Task Force advocates that the ELCA should trust congregations, synods, candidacy committees, and bishops to discern the Holy Spirits gifts for ministry among the baptized and make judgments appropriate to each situation.  In the New Testament, however, the criterion for the discernment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is a broadly based, ecclesial determination and not an individual, local preference. If the Report before us were to be implemented, the ELCA, as a national church body, would abdicate its theological and moral constitutional responsibility by relegating the decisions for which it alone is responsible to regional and local components. Far beyond transforming the polity of the ELCA into a congregational one, such an action would so fatally extend the boundaries of diversity in matters of doctrinal and ethical substance that this church would no longer be an effective collaborator either in the communio of the Lutheran World Federation or in the multiple dimensions of ecumenical dialogue. The proposed shift of matters of such enormous import from the national to the local levels will have two adverse consequences: 1. structural dissolution of the ELCA as it currently exists, and; 2. creation of intense division and disunity at the local level, thus effectively undermining ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements (5).
Conscience The Task Force imposes a subjective understanding of conscience, one bound only by private judgment, upon Scripture and Luther, thus misrepresenting both. Whenever conscience severs itself from faith in Christ and fidelity to the Word it is no longer conscience in the true sense. Indeed, some in the Corinthian church wanted to solve their disagreements by applying precisely such a therapeutic model of conscience, an approach that Paul unequivocally rejects. Weak consciences, led into error by social pressures and alien ideologies, can never be ultimately determinative sources of truth or unity. For Luther, the holy and righteous conscience of the Christian must agree with Gods Word; an erring conscience, separated from Scripture, can react only in accordance with selfish desires resulting from weakness in faith.
Pastoral Care In Scripture the term pastor is never dissociated from the standard of sound teaching. Much like the term conscience, pastoral concern must be governed by that which is righteous and holy in the eyes of God. Pastoral concern is not a neutral category and cannot, therefore, be determinative in discerning the correctness of actions or behavior. Since pastors can either teach sound or false doctrine, Titus is urged to teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Neither Scripture nor the Confessions entrust the theological or ethical teaching of the church to pastoral discretion (5). In listening to the contemporary voices of the baptized children of God (9) we cannot and must not disregard the voices of the church universal over the past two millennia; Scripture can never address us independently from that communal history.
CONCLUSION For the reasons given we urge that all three recommendations of the Task Force be rejected since, if adopted, they would alter fundamentally the ecclesiology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and that, in turn, would threaten not only the unity and stability of this church but, as a consequence, its ability to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.
Robert Benne Carl E. Braaten James R. Crumley, Jr. Karl P. Donfried Gerhard O. Forde George W. Forell Roy A. Harrisville Hans Hillerbrand Robert W. Jenson Marc Kolden William H. Lazareth James A. Nestingen Michael J. Root William G. Rusch Walter F. Taylor, Jr. David S. Yeago
Now for the vote. The outcome will mark the ELCA for many years to come. Hopefully the electorate will reject the Task Force's recommendations.
Truly righteous men but they're trying to ____ up a rope unless they're ready to move the ELCA away from the National Council of Churches.
Our pastor is downplaying the changes at this point, but we will have to see what others actually do about all of this.
Our pastor is actually in favor of the recommendations, and more. He informed us of this during our premarital counseling...that since he can't "marry" same sex couples legally he wishes that clergy weren't allowed to act as agents of the state in performing marriages. Basically he wants it to be like Europe, where everyone marries civilly with a justice of the peace or similar, and then can have a religious ceremony if they choose. Then he could bless whatever union he wanted to... *sigh*
We are so outta there come May...
I foresee one of three likely (basic)outcomes at the CWA--
1. The recommendations are brought to the floor and rejected outright. This would be the most desirable outcome because it would send a clear message to the liberal leadership that the laity will not tolerate "altering the ecclesiology of the ELCA," as they put it.
2. The recommendations are brought to the floor but "tabled" for further discussion. This is actually not as desirable because it leaves an open door for the recommendations to be "re-tooled" into something even more muddled than what they've already put on the table. Boiling Frog Alert!!!
3. The recommendations are not even brought to the floor--and we end up with the same problems as in #2. :(
No.s 2 and 3 are unfortunately the more likely options, since our church has a track record of non-confrontationalism.
The silver lining is, IMHO, that I really don't think the measure can really succeed on the floor outright, in it's current form.
Thanks for the ping
I'm glad to see that someone in the ELCA is willing to stand up to the liberals and the moderates.
Surprisingly this statement was featured in a press release from the denominational headquarters yesterday. Lengthy quotes were made from the document and all of the signatories were listed. I interpret this as a hopeful sign that the top leadership is at least leaning toward the same directions. See http://www.elca.org
They'll have harsh internal battles in the ELCA.
Here's an article about a joint ECUSA+ELCA church in Detroit, following CCM:
Here's the Lutheran - Episcopal Coordinating Committee (LECC) page, too, if you're interested in what they're discussing:
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