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Lutheran Assembly Considers Sweeping Sexuality Revisions

Contact: Kristen Seda, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, kseda@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, meeting August 17-23 in Minneapolis, is considering proposals that would set aside historic Christian teachings and Lutheran policies regarding sexuality. Key votes on a social statement on sexuality and new ministry policies on same-sex relationships are scheduled this Wednesday and Friday. The IRD will be commenting as these decisions are made.

Current ELCA policies declare that "marriage is the appropriate place for sexual intercourse." Single ministers "are expected to live a chaste life," and "[o]rdained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from sexual relationships." The ELCA bishops in 1993 stated that "there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship."

The proposed social statement commends sexual relationships that are "trustworthy," "loving," "fulfilling," "committed," and "nurturing." It suggests that some homosexual and other non-marital relationships might satisfy these criteria. The proposed ministry policies would commit the ELCA to "finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships." Local church bodies would have the option of ordaining persons in such relationships.

The ELCA Church Council and top denominational leadership is pushing for the revised policies on sexuality. Reform groups such as the Word Alone Network and Lutheran CORE have rallied church members in support of historic teaching.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

"The ELCA, formed out of ethnic German and Scandinavian bodies, now increasingly acts like a 'mainline' U.S. denomination. But the mainstream of U.S. and global Christianity still holds strongly to traditional Christian teaching upholding the marriage of man and woman as the standard for Christian sexual behavior.

"Now the ELCA faces a choice. If it keeps the historic teaching, like the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), it remains in the mainstream of the Christian tradition and the worldwide Church.

"But if the ELCA embraces sexual revisionism, it would deliberately sideline itself. It would exalt western liberal notions of individual moral autonomy above shared understandings of the Bible. It would alienate the majority of its own members. It would follow the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church on the road to theological marginalization, internal division, accelerating membership loss, and cultural irrelevance."

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