Time to Exercise Your Bound Conscience
So, here we stand. A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church, without any real attempt to back it up scripturally or theologically or even persuade most members of the church. Alas. But they have thrown us a bone--we are allowed to exercise our bound consciences. So let's get to work. Here are three continuing resolutions proposed by various persons in the ELCA and sent to us at LF--we are going to let them remain nameless, lest their bound consciences come under attack by other bound consciences--for congregations to consider adopting as part of their constitutions...
So, here we stand. A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church, without any real attempt to back it up scripturally or theologically or even persuade most members of the church. Alas. But they have thrown us a bone--we are allowed to exercise our bound consciences. So let's get to work. Here are three by-laws proposed by various persons in the ELCA and sent to us at LF--we are going to let them remain nameless, lest their bound consciences come under attack by other bound consciences--for congregations to consider adopting as part of their constitutions.
It's worth noting that section 9 of your church's constitution (assuming it follows the ELCA's model constitution), which is the most obvious place to put these resolutions, cannot be changed or amended. Presumably this is to prevent individual churches from deciding that their pastors don't have to follow the Lutheran Confessions, certainly an honorable and necessary requirement (though how much it actually works is another question). The point is, if you attempt to insert these resolutions in chapter 9 and you also dwell in a synod hostile to these resolutions, they will have valid constitutional ground for rejecting them. Therefore it will be necessary to adopt them as "continuing resolutions" or "by-laws." By-laws on the whole are stronger, harder to change, and therefore preferable.
By-law Proposal #1
Every pastor shall lead by personal example in the use of the means of grace, in faithful service, and holy living. Every pastor shall subscribe to Visions and Expectations of 1990. Christian marriage is the union of one man and one woman blessed by God and recognized by the state. Married pastors shall be faithful to the spouse and unmarried pastors shall be abstinent.
By-law Proposal #2
1. This congregation receives the pastoral guidance of the 1993 Statement of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, 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.” However, pastors within their local contexts are to “provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”
2. Only a pastor who subscribes to and lives according to the November 23, 1990 document, Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which calls pastors to faithfulness in marriage and chastity in singleness, shall be eligible to be called as a pastor of this congregation. The Christian tradition defines marriage as a covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman and chastity in singleness as abstinence from sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual. Only a pastor who preaches, teaches, and lives according to these understandings shall be eligible to be called as a pastor of this congregation.
By-law Proposal #3
Premable. After years of debating, since 1991, whether or not to change historical Christian teachings prohibiting homosexual behavior, the ELCA at its national convention in Minneapolis, MN, August 17-23, 2009, adopted a compromise position on the matter. In effect it says that each congregation can decide for itself what to do. This means there will no longer be any national prohibitions on the matter of homosexual behavior. Specifically this means that ELCA congregations are now free (1) to teach that homosexual behavior isn’t, in and of itself, sinful, (2) to call homosexual pastors who aren’t celibate to serve their parishes, and (3) to bless or marry homosexual couples in their churches.
No ELCA congregation is required to do any of this. But if they do, they will not be disciplined or expelled from the ELCA the way St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco were on January 1, 1996. Equally true, ELCA congregations are free to affirm the historical teachings against homosexual behavior if they want to.
Therefore, this congregation resolves the following.
(A) According to the Scriptures, Homosexual Behavior is Sinful. In this we follow the statement of ELCA predecessor body, the American Lutheran Church, in its statement “Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior” (1980): “This church regards the practice of homosexual erotic behavior as contrary to God’s intent for his children. It rejects the contention that homosexual behavior is simply another form of sexual behavior equally valid with the dominant male/female pattern. We have reviewed the challenges to the traditional interpretations of those scripture passages that appear to proscribe homosexual behavior. We are not convinced by the evidence presented. Among passages cited as requiring interpretations different from the traditional interpretation are Genesis 18:16-19:29; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10.”
(B) No Homosexual Weddings. In this we follow Resolution CB93.10.25 of the ELCA Conference of Bishops (October 1993): “We… recognize 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. We, therefore, do not approve such a ceremony as an official action of this church’s ministry.”
(C) Homosexual Pastors Must Be Celibate. In this we follow Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA (1990): “The expectations of this church regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.”
Please write to the editors to let us know if and when your congregation adopts such statements, or whether you have alternate resolutions to propose.