Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is that "Draft" or "Drift"?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our denomination, released its Draft Statement on Human Sexuality today. This statement is the result of six years of study by the Human Sexuality Task Force, which was constituted by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. The Task Force released study documents--the obsequiously titled "Journey Together Faithfully" I & II--and collected responses from across the church. All that work turned into the Draft Statement.

If you understood all of that, you may be a Mainline Protestant.

One of my colleagues said recently that he wasn't particularly interested in seeing what the Draft Statement on Human Sexuality said, since it was his opinion that it wouldn't say anything.

I had higher hopes. I've watched our church wrestle with human sexuality (which is, of course, church-speak for "homosexuality") for twenty years now. We tried to get together a statement on human sexuality back in the early nineties. Someone leaked it to the press, the New York Times announced that the Lutherans were "affirming homosexuality and masturbation" and that was all she wrote for Attempt One.

But this is Attempt Two. It's 2008. Surely we're ready to Journey Faithfully into the twenty-first century Together. Surely it is time that the church take the position that gay and lesbian relationships are worthy of the same respect and ecclesial fortitude as straight relationships.

Alas, my colleague was right, and I have never wanted less to be a Lutheran.

This is my favorite paragraph:

It is only within the last decades that this church has begun to deal in a new way with
the longing of same-gender persons to seek relationships of life-long companionship and
commitment and to seek public accountability for those commitments. In response, this
church has drawn deeply on its Lutheran heritage to dwell in Scripture and listen to the
Word of God. This listening has brought biblical scholars, theologians, and rostered and
lay persons to different conclusions. After many years of study and conversation, this
church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.
This church has committed itself to continuing to accompany one another in study,
prayer, discernment, and pastoral care.
Apparently a few decades is a short amount of time. Depends upon your perspective, I think. If you're waiting for the church to decide what it thinks about someone else, a few decades may feel short. If you're waiting for the church to decide how it feels about you, a few decades is an excruciatingly long time.
Of course, in using the language of "the church," I've fallen into the same hole the Task Force is trying to write its way out of. As long as we're waiting for "the church" to have consensus, we'll study ourselves to death. There are nearly five million members of the ELCA. No--they don't have consensus on human sexuality. They don't have frigging consensus on weekly communion! Stop me if I'm wrong, but I think that the people of "the church" asked the Task Force to do six years worth of thinking and studying and to make a suggestion about what we as a church were going to stand for.
Apparently we stand for not being able to stand for anything. Please forgive my bluntness, but the idea of "continuing to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, and pastoral care" makes me want to vomit. We just did "study, prayer, discernment, and pastoral care." Six bloody years of it. On top of the twenty years we did before that. If we spent six years and a couple million dollars to learn that we need more study, we could have been feeding hungry kids in Africa.
It's only a draft. It may get better. I'm going to take some deep breaths now and calm down. Then make some notes for the synod listening post next month.


Anonymous said...

Mainline Protestant? Today makes me want to mainline hard drugs.

Read the newspapers! "Largest Lutheran body defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman"

Read all about it! Everywhere in the press!

You're worried about the contents of their statement being muddled Donna? I think the media has picked up one part of it loud 'n' clear, and there it was in my Chicago rag at lunch, see it also in LA Times now.

I joined a church and a synod that'll happily let me get married (if some guy came along) right in our church, very happily in fact. So much for the ELCA itself.

"For his part, Bishop Dean W. Nelson of the church's Southwest California Synod, which includes Los Angeles, said the document should help Lutherans launch a conversation on the topic."

Weren't we supposed to launch this conversation like, years ago? I've discussed it to the point where I wish it would just not be discussed.

Donna, can you predict this thing will get shot down next year? If I had no opinion on sexuality, I'd look at that report and say, what a waste of time, money, and paper.

Complain as I may, read this: "A statement by Mark Chavez, director of the WordAlone Network, which represents theological conservatives, said he feared that the report could be used to let local synods set their own policies on gay clergy."

Right on!

If this results in what Mark Chavez describes above, I'm all for it. Let one ELCA church on one side of the street be a gay marriage mecca, and the other one across the street keep it between a man and a woman.

In the larger scheme of things, this ongoing "debate" about homosexuality in the ELCA is so frustrating. You might disagree with me, but it seems like ELCA Lutherans across the spectrum have much, much in common. And we could build on those common points, translate them into actual works, etc. Instead of focusing on... homosexuality.


Donna said...

Yeah, I noticed the affirmation of "traditional marriage." I still think the whole thing is a whole bunch of not much. Of course, it will thrill The Middle, which is apparently the people we're supposed to keep happy. Especially since Lutherans Concerned ain't happy and WordAlone ain't happy. I can't wait to hear the first person say "well, it must be balanced, since all of those people on 'the fringe' don't like it. I'm really weary of the idea that speaking out for silly things like fairness and justice makes one part of the "fringe."

Yup, still frustrated. Hang in there, Paul. A lot can happen before next summer. As far as my life in the ELCA is concerned, a lot had better happen.