ELCA Panel Members Express Dissent Against Changing Gay Clergy Policy

Three members of a task force in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have released a statement, expressing their dissent against recommendations the panel made regarding homosexuality.

"Because we firmly believe the current polices of the ELCA, when enforced, are consistent with the biblical witness, Christian moral tradition, and the view of the vast majority of Christians in the world, we refused to sign off on both the social statement and the recommendations and are submitting our dissent," the Revs. Dr. Scott Suskovic, Corinne Johnson, and Carol S. Hendrix stated, according to their post in the Lutheran Forum.

The three described themselves as the "minority voice" among the other 27 members and advisors of the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality. Last month, the task force released a long-awaited report acknowledging that there is neither a consensus nor an emerging one in the denomination on homosexuality while at the same time recommending that individual congregations be allowed to choose whether to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained.

"The majority of the task force concludes that, among all the options available, it will best serve the mission of the ELCA to recommend that, within the existing structures and practices of this church, some means for flexibility in decision-making be implemented so that congregations and synods may choose whether or not to approve or call people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve on ELCA rosters," according to the report.

Currently, the ELCA allows the ordination of gays and lesbians if they remain celibate.

But before moving forward with the recommended policy change, the task force suggested that the denomination first clarify its position on such questions as: "Should the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships?"

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.

The minority voices on the task force are hoping the ELCA will not go down that path. They believe that changing the policies would "sever the ELCA from the ecumenical church and the Christian consensus down through the ages."

"Of critical importance when considering sexuality is the role of God's commandments - his Law - in the moral ordering of the Christian life," the three task force members, whose dissent is included in the panel report, stated. "We are convinced that God's intention for marriage - life-long covenant of fidelity between a man and a woman - established as the First Institute in Genesis 2 and re-affirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:6-9, serves as the center around which all Christian sexual ethics are defined."

The three panel members say the human sexuality report focuses on freedom and justification by faith while minimizing the "role of the Law in Christian life."

"We contend that the recommendations proposed in Report and Recommendations, which advocate same-gender unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons, have little biblical, historical, or traditional support," they commented. "The proposed recommendations advocate a radical departure from long-held moral tradition and biblical interpretation, thus distancing us further from the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches, evangelical churches and most of the churches in the Protestant mainstream."

Suskovic, Johnson, and Hendrix are concerned that the proposed recommendation by the majority of the task force threatens to fragment the ELCA and argue that a lack of consensus does not mandate change, but rather a maintaining of current policies.

The task force was commissioned by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly specifically to address and make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of the ELCA.

The panel's recommendations will be considered by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on August 17-23 in Minneapolis.

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