Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Churchwide what?

As Lutherans prepare for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis next week, I'd like to revisit my June newsletter column.

(Originally published as my "Pastor's Pen" column in the June issue of my congregation's newsletter).

Greetings Amazing Grace Community,

Our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is in the process of approving a social statement on human sexuality, as well as the possibility of changing ministry guidelines that currently prohibit persons in same-gender relationships from serving as pastors and rostered leaders. I anticipate Lutherans gaining some national news attention regardless of how these matters are decided at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly at Minneapolis in August.

As a heterosexual, white, college educated, North American male, I speak from a point of privilege in so many ways. I try not to judge people. I do not understand other people’s homosexuality just as I do not understand my own heterosexuality. I know that we are all broken in some way. We live in the world as it is and await the world as it should be. We acknowledge our own fallen world, but celebrate the beautiful diversity that is the Body of Christ.

The Bible contains about seven verses that in some way allude to homosexual behavior, mostly in the Hebrew Bible, and none from the mouth of Jesus. On the other hand, over 3,000 verses of the Bible address issues of wealth, poverty, and hunger. I know those texts from Leviticus that are often used as Bible bullets against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I also know that nearby verses also condemn eating shrimp, wearing cotton/wool blend clothing, and combining meat and dairy. Good-bye, double cheeseburgers. Definitely goodbye, bacon cheeseburgers. We know that we can’t simply pick and choose what part of the Bible to take seriously, and what not to, but truthfully, that is what we do all the time.

As Lutheran Christians, we look at the Bible through lenses of the Gospel—through lenses of love. This love of Jesus calls us to love even those people with whom we disagree. This love calls us to pray for our enemies. This love of Jesus calls us to trust the work of the Holy Spirit. Love is so often a very hard thing to do.Our Church faces much conflict and conversation in these months ahead with many difficult questions with no easy answers. Who can get married? Who can be a pastor? What does the Bible say? What does it actually look like when we try to love our neighbor?

I don't know what will happen in August. I do know that some people will be disappointed. Some will be angry that a consensus is not reached. Others will be concerned if the ELCA continues to ignore the gifts for ministry in many talented leaders. I know that we in the ELCA (and at Amazing Grace) will never fully agree about human sexuality. I do know that we are all loved, guided, strengthened, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, no matter where we are on our Christian journey.

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