Reformed Groups, Pro-Gay Groups Criticize ELCA Sexuality Report

Lutherans on all rungs of the theological spectrum criticized the recently released Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality for being either misleading or oppressive, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005.

The long awaited report, released Thursday, essentially called for no change to the church’s standards prohibiting both the ordination of active homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions, but simultaneously urged bishops to refrain from disciplining those who broke the policies.

According to reformed leaders, the report was a muddled attempt to maintain unity in the 5-million member denomination by appeasing both sides of the debate.

“The taskforce report is an apparent attempt to avoid an outright schism within the ELCA by calling for no official change in policy, but then caters radicals by asking bishops to refuse to enforce these very same policies in regard to the blessing of same sex unions and the ordination of clergy openly involved in same sex behavior,” explained the Rev. Christopher Hershman, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Confessing Fellowship

”Such maneuvers appear to be the last gasps of a dying church body. How can any church body be united in mission if it can't be united in theology, practice and biblical interpretation? How can an authentic expression of the Christian church allow for open departures from basic Christian teaching?” he added.

Leaders from the largest reformed ELCA group, Word Alone network, also criticized the report as being inherently left-winged.

“While the ELCA Sexuality Task Force may say it isn’t suggesting change in the ELCA standards for ordination, the recommendations in its report will bring about de facto change because they suggest that the standards not be enforced,” said Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland, president of WordAlone, the largest reform and renewal movement within the ELCA.

“Looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck. How stupid do they think we are?” said WordAlone director Pastor Mark Chavez.

Interestingly, those on the pro-homosexual side of the debate criticized the report as being too right-winged.

Soulforce, an interfaith group committed to “ending the spiritual violence perpetrated by religious policies and teachings against the LGBTQ people,” wrote in a Jan 14 statement:

“The people of Soulforce stand in solidarity with our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender friends and allies in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We share the anger and the grief they must feel today with the release of the ELCA Task Force for Studies on Sexuality,” wrote Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc.

“We too had hoped that their denomination with its historic roots in justice and truth would finally end the policies that discriminate against the ordination and marriage of lesbian and gay people,” White wrote. “Instead, for the sake of “unity” they kept in place the policies that demean our relationships and deny our call to Christian ministry.”

“Whether the bishops enforce this terrible decision or not, the Task Force Report has tragic consequences in the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Lutherans their families and friends,” said White.

Emily Eastwood, executive director of the pro-homosexual group Lutherans Concerned/North America, went further by saying the Task Force has been led by “fear” rather that the gospel.

“The arbitrary enforcement of the current policy as allowed by the Task Force recommendations does not lead to personal or institutional integrity. A new policy of selectively ignoring an old policy is not a good policy. The Alliance believes that the Task Force has been led more by fear than by trust in the Gospel,”