A group of Hispanic pastors from Florida released an open letter to members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pleading against adopting changes to the denomination's positions on homosexuality.
"When the Assembly votes on these matters, your vote will not simply decide on possible changes to ELCA policies but will also be a vote on whether or not Holy Scripture will be the final authority for our faith and life in the ELCA," the pastors state in the letter, released Friday.
Already several groups of Lutheran scholars and church leaders have released similar open letters urging votes for and against changes. Their pleas come ahead of the denomination's Churchwide Assembly, which convenes in Minneapolis starting Aug. 17.
The latest letter reveals that many pastors and members of Hispanic congregations in the ELCA are "extremely concerned" with the upcoming vote.
Next month, voting members will be considering adopting its first statement on human sexuality and proposals that conservatives say would allow non-celibate homosexuals to be ordained.
Earlier this year, the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality released a long-awaited report acknowledging that there is neither a consensus nor an emerging one in the denomination on homosexuality. The task force agreed that the denomination cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless it is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships but it recommended that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to recognize such relationships.
It also recommended that individual congregations be allowed to choose whether to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained.
Opposed to the statement and the recommended policy changes, the Hispanic Lutherans stress in their letter, "[I]t is crystal clear that the Bible calls homosexual behavior contrary to the Word and Will of God."
And while everyone should be and is welcomed to ELCA congregations, homosexual behavior and any other unbiblical sexual behavior should be regarded as behavior not in accordance with the Will of God, they add.
"All of humankind is equally and inherently alienated from God and are forgiven and saved by the Grace of God, and only by the Grace of God. However, this forgiveness calls for repentance."
They warn that if the statement and policy changes are adopted, many will leave the ELCA and the denomination's unity will be further undermined.
"Being deeply concerned about the future of our Church, we respectfully request that, for the sake of the Word of God and for the unity of the ELCA, your vote may honor the Biblical, historical, confessional, and traditional teachings of the Church regarding sexuality, marriage, family, and the rostering of our ministry leaders," the pastors urge.