Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
Events about the social statements prior to the
2009 Churchwide Assembly
A Social Statement on human sexuality was:
Released in 2009-FEB by the Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Studies on Sexuality .
||Reviewed by the church membership during synod meetings across the U.S.
Re-issued with a minor change by the Church Council as "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,"
who accompanied it with a "Recommendations on Ministry Policies"
document. The latter discussed "finding a way for people in such publicly
accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered
leaders in this church."
||Submitted it for passage to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
2009-FEB-19: Statement on human sexuality released:
The Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Studies on Sexuality had released its "Draft
Social Statement on Human Sexuality" on 2008-MAR-13. During 2008, over
100 public meetings
were held by synods across the U.S. to discuss the document and suggest changes.
About 2,000 written submissions were sent by the public.
On 2009-FEB-19, the Task Force issued its revised "Proposed Social Statement on
Human Sexuality and accompanying Rostering Recommendations," which
includes changes recommended by the synod reviews. 1
At a six-day meeting starting on 2009-MAR-05, statement was
reviewed by the Conference of Bishops.
It seems that everyone involved was unhappy with the document, but for
If adopted, the proposed statement would allow ministers in same-sex
relationships to serve in ministry. However, as originally written, it seemed
to allow congregations,
candidacy committees, synods and bishops power to veto candidates for
ordination and ordained ministers for service -- if their conscience requires
them to continue the discrimination against LGBT individuals. 2
"Lutherans Concerned/North America" (LC/NA) is a group promoting
full equality for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons in
Emily Eastwood, their executive director, said:
"The Proposed Social Statement extols the place of family,
right relationships, love, Christian values, sexuality, mutuality, commitment,
the benefits to society and the church of committed relationships, and the
diversity of successful families within church and society. The Proposed
Social Statement clearly places same-gender committed relationships among
those. With all of that Lutherans Concerned is in agreement."
"This Social Statement is a vast improvement over its previous draft. We are
also gratified that the Social Statement continues to acknowledge, 'with
regret,' that the church's teachings have on occasion been used to harm
people, deepening their suffering and tearing families apart. Mindful of the
divisions within the church the document creates room for the recognition of
same-gender relationships. It calls for comprehensive sex education in church
and in schools."
"But that is not enough. Singularly, the Proposed Social Statement, having
extolled the unique benefits to couples, church and society of committed
relationships, fails to proffer a means of public recognition of same-gender
relationships: no rite of blessing or marriage. Unacceptable, but correctable
inconsistency. ..." 2
"Lutheran CORE" (Coalition for Reform) is a conservative "... group of individuals,
congregations and reform groups, working for biblical and confessional
integrity in the ELCA" and the retention of special rights and
privileges for heterosexuals within the denomination. Their blog entry for
"It is an outrage that a vote on the ordination of
active homosexuals might be determined by a simple majority of the voting
members at a Churchwide Assembly. This is an issue that has troubled our
church for many years. It is a scandal that a simple majority of voting
members might overturn Biblical teaching and centuries of Christian ethics
on marriage and sexuality. A majority vote on such an important matter is
hardly the way to achieve consensus and harmony within the church."
2009-MAR-27-30: ELCA Church Council considers statements:
The Proposed Social Statement and Rostering Recommendations were
reviewed at a by the Conference of Bishops and Church in Society
board, who passed their recommendations to the ELCA Church Council. There
appear to be no LGBT individuals on the council to present their side of the
The Council reviewed and decided to uphold its earlier decision to recommend
to the Churchwide Assembly (CWA) that a simple majority be used where
possible, rather than a two-thirds majority.
The Council then produced two documents:
A social statement, titled: "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust." This
is unchanged from the social statement written by the Task Force with one
exception: Implementation resolution #7 was amendment to call on the Board of
Pensions to make its eligibility criteria consistent with the new rostering
policy of the church. The statement was passed on to the CWA with a
recommendation for passage. As required by the ELCA constitution, the Social
Statement will require a 2/3 majority to pass. The Implementing Resolutions
will require a simple majority to pass, but only if the social statement
Rostering recommendations, titled: "Recommendations on Ministry
Policies." This document is considered to be separate from the Social
Statement. The Council edited it for clarity. Emily Eastwood explained:
"... edits by the council helped clarify that what had appeared in the Task
Force documents was not intended as a form of synodical option."
" 'Structured flexibility' in processes will now allow for 'bound conscience' on
both sides of the issues. Meaning that 'finding a way for people in such
publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve
as rostered leaders in this church' will be the guiding principle for the
church in local matters of 'bound conscience.'
Congregations and other calling
bodies wishing to call a rostered minister in a same-gender relationship will
be allowed to do so.
Congregations and other calling bodies opposed to such
calls will not be required to act contrary to their 'bound conscience.' This
is what we have always wanted, to let the call be the test." 3
The revised document was passed to the CWA with a
recommendation for passage. It requires only a simple majority
vote to pass. If adopted by the CWA, it would appear to codify a local option
process into the selection of candidates for ordination.
A number of synod assemblies held during April-June produce
comments and advice to the CWA.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and accompanying
Rostering Recommendations," ECLA, 2009, at:
"Lutherans Concerned Agrees and Profoundly Disagrees with ELCA Sexuality
Statements," Good Soil, at:
"March 27 - 30 Church Council Meeting, Good Soil, 2009-MAR-26, at:
Paull E. Spring, "Lutheran Core News - January 2009," Lutheran CORE, at:
"A Timeline of Important Events Leading Up to the 2009 Churchwide
Assembly in Minneapolis," Good Soil, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson