Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
2009 CWA: Reactions to the social statement approval by
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) held its week-long biennial
Churchwide Assembly (CWA) in Minneapolis, MN from 2009-AUG-17 to 23.
The social statement was passed on AUG-19 with the smallest possible margin. The vote
was 676 in favor (66.67%) and 338 opposed. A two thirds majority was required
for passage. If only one delegate had who voted in favor of the statement had
changed their mind, it would have been defeated. 1
In the following reactions, you will note various ELCA members interpret the
Bible's six "clobber passages" -- those
that may refer to same-sex behavior -- in very different
ways. What is a clear meaning of scripture is a false interpretation by others. Yet members from both sides are firmly convinced that their interpretation
is the only valid one.
Reactions by Lutheran CORE:Lutheran CORE is a conservative reform coalition: "working together
for positive reform in the ELCA." They were very distressed by the passage of the social statement.
The Rev. Paull Spring of State College, PA,
who is their chairperson, and a retired bishop of the Northwestern
Pennsylvania Synod stated:
"We mourn the decision by the Churchwide Assembly to reject the clear
teaching of the Bible that God's intention for marriage is the relationship of
one man and one woman. It is tragic that such a large number of ELCA members were
willing to overturn the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been believed
and confessed by Christians for nearly 2,000 years."
"We are disappointed that this social statement has caused such a deep
division in the church. For this social statement to pass by only one vote shows
how deeply divided the ELCA is and will continue to be."
"We are grateful for the many faithful Lutherans who have stood with us in
confessing the teaching of Scripture on marriage and on homosexual behavior.
We call on all those in the ELCA who want to continue to uphold the authority
of Scripture in the church to work together even more closely in the days and
"It is tragic that ELCA leaders thought it possible
to bring this proposal to a vote. The church should not be voting on whether
or not to follow the teaching of the Bible." 2
Many Christians feel uncomfortable with the idea
of deciding an issue by a simple majority vote. In another case, the Jesus Seminar was
widely criticized for using a simple vote to decide whether quotations attributed to
Jesus in the Bible were actually, probably, probably not, or not said by him.
However, the tradition of voting has a long history in Christianity. For
example, the precise natures of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were decided by
majority vote in early church councils, sometimes with very narrow margins.
When sincere, dedicated parishioners:
there really does not seem to be any other
alternative to voting when an issue needs to be decided.
Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C., a member of the Lutheran CORE Steering
"Even more distressing than the passage of the social statement is the fact
that the assembly majority would not even listen to debate on many of the
proposed amendments to the social statement that would have affirmed biblical
teaching and the historic teaching of the Christian Church."
The Rev. Erma Wolf of Brandon, S.D., vice chair of the Lutheran CORE
Steering Committee said:
"This is a sad day for Lutherans in the United States. I am disappointed that
so many voting members were willing to overturn the Bible's teaching. The ELCA
is a very divided church. This decision divides us even more. It is going to
be very hard for faithful Lutherans to support the ELCA when the ELCA is
willing to reject the clear teaching of Scripture." 2
Lutheran CORE will hold a convention in late September in Indianapolis, IN,
for reform-minded conservative Lutherans to discuss the implications of the
CWA resolutions, and consider the future for themselves and their
Reactions by WordAlone Network:WordAlone Network is
another conservative reform group that is part of the Lutheran CORE.
Their president, Jaynan Clark of Spokane, WA,
"It is appropriate that we call this a 'social' statement for we have just
swapped society's statements and trends for God's Word and teaching."
Reactions by Lutherans Concerned/North America (LCNA)
LCNA is a LGBT-positive
group within the ELCA. Executive Director Emily Eastwood, spoke for Goodsoil,
a collaboration of LGBT-positive organizations, expressed strong support for
the statement, at least as a first step. She said:
"This is a day of progress and compromise. By a 2/3 majority the church has
supported families of all kinds and has acknowledged without judgment the wide
variety of views within the ELCA regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) inclusion."
The document recognizes the ministries of
congregations which conduct blessings of same gender relationships and same
gender marriages where such marriages are legal. The social statement is
tolerant of our differences both in scriptural interpretation and practice.
The social statement supports our unity without requiring uniformity. There is
still much work to do, but the door to full inclusion of LGBT members and
their families is now most definitely open."
"The social statement now forms the basis for policy and
advocacy on issues related to families and sexuality both for ministry and
advocacy in church and society. ..."
"The Social Statement now serves as a teaching document that
describes the world and society that the ELCA lives and works in to provide
ministry and spread the Gospel. The Social Statement provides the basis and
guidance for the formulation of policy and the creation of programs."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"ELCA Assembly Adopts 'Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust'," ELCA News
Service, 2009-AUG-19, at:
David Virtue, "MINNEAPOLIS: ELCA Leaders follow Episcopal Church on
Homosexual Marriage," VirtueOnline, 2009-AUG-19, at:
"Press Release from Goodsoil regarding the human sexuality social
statement," ELCA CWA blogspot. 2009-AUG-20, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson