Just got back, a little bit ago, from a meeting of interested people from area churches to discuss the ELCA's Taskforce on Sexuality's report and recommendations regarding same-sex unions, and the ordination/consecration/commissioning of gay/lesbian people in same gender relationships, and I figured now was about as good of a time as any to share my thoughts/feelings/concerns/etc.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about and would like to read more, or if you know what I'm talking about and just haven't had a chance to read the report, or if you know what I'm talking about and have read the report and just want to refresh your memory, you may click here
So I've gone back and forth on this. For those of you who don't know, the ELCA has been ordaining homosexuals as long as they remain celibate. Hetereosexuals are allowed to be ordained as long as they are chaste. The difference? Glad you asked. Celibacy is abstention from the vow of marriage and sexual intercourse. Being chaste primarily implies a refraining from acts or even thoughts or desires that are not virginal or not sanctioned by marriage vows. So if one is celibate, then it removes any option of sexual intercourse or marriage. Catholic priests, therefore, are celibate. If someone is chaste, the option of marriage remains, and sex is allowed within the vows of marriage.
On the conservative side of the argument, you have the people who think homosexual sexual activity is an abomination. They quote many scripture verses that they say speak towards the condemnation of a homosexual lifestyle. They believe that there is no room for the blessing of these unions, or the ordination of these "unrepentant sinners."
On the liberal side, you have the people who believe that homosexuality is a natural occurence. They say that the scripture that is often quoted does not speak towards commited, loving, consensual same sex relationships. They believe that homosexual people deserve the same rights as heterosexual people, and this includes same-sex unions and ordination/consecration/commissioning within the church.
So the ELCA decided they needed to study the issue. And while the act of studying a group of people might seem hurtful, I think that it is better than some of the alternatives. Some churches say there is no room to even consider the homosexual lifestyle as an option in our church. They immediately close down any lines of communication about the issue. Then there's the church that ordained a homosexual bishop in a commited same-sex relationship, and there has been crazy fallout from that, especially concerning their relationships with the church in other countries.
So the ELCA has tried to avoid both of these. And they spent a number of years coming up with the report and recommendation. And basically what they've come up with is that they've decided to do nothing about the blessing of same-sex unions, and they have decided not to change the policy about the ordination of homosexuals in relationships. However, they have also left it up to local bishops and synods as to what sort of discipline there will be for these blessings and ordinations. So the bishop has the option of not disciplining these churches for their actions.
As of right now, I am trying to view these recommendations in the most positive light. Sure, they are not what some of us hoped for. It still tells the homosexuals that, ultimately, their lifestyle is questionable. But it keeps the conversation alive. It keeps the dialog going. It opens up the possibility for homosexuals to be ordained/consecrated/commissioned without them or the church being disciplined. It's a baby step in the right direction, but even a baby step is still movement.
But then you have to wonder, there will be bishops who are more accepting and bishops who are less accepting. Homosexuals and their allies will be more likely to gravitate to synods and areas with more liberal bishops. Those who disagree will be more likely to gravitate towards synods and areas with less liberal bishops. There is the option of extreme polarization, and perhaps even a ghetto effect.
Of course all of this is jumping the gun. These are just recommendations and won't be voted on until the Churchwide Assembly in August. So there's bound to be a lot more conversation between now and then. I'm interested to hear what will be said!
To read the conservative viewpoint, check out Word Alone
To read the more liberal and accepting conversation check out the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation