ELCA 'Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality' Now Available

3/13/2008 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Task Force for the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality
released the "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality"
March 13 for study and response across the 4.8 million-member
ELCA.  Responses to the draft social statement are due to
the task force Nov. 1, 2008.
     Social statements are teaching documents that assist
Lutherans in forming judgments on social issues.  They
provide theological and ethical framework for discussion,
discernment and decision-making, set policy for the church,
and guide the church's advocacy and work in church and
society.  Social statements are adopted by a two-thirds
vote at ELCA churchwide assemblies.  Held every other year,
the churchwide assembly is the ELCA's highest legislative
authority.  The next assembly is Aug. 17-23, 2009, in
Minneapolis.
     "We are sexual creatures from the moment of birth
to the time of death.  This draft social statement takes
that seriously and addresses sexuality in relation to the
various situations of our lives.  The common question at
all times is what serves the good of the neighbor, what
creates and sustains trust, and what protects from harm,"
said the Rev. Rebecca S. Larson, executive director, ELCA
Church in Society.
     "It is the hope of the task force that this draft
social statement will invite this church into continued
conversation. This draft forms the best thinking of the
task force to date, although not all members of the task
force agree with all parts of the document. The task force
hopes to learn what in the draft is helpful, what might be
changed, and what is missing," said Larson.
     Most of the ELCA's 65 synods plan to host hearings
between March and November as an opportunity for Lutherans
to discuss the draft social statement.  At least one
representative of the task force is to attend each hearing.
The ELCA has 10,549 congregations organized into its 65
synods.  The draft document contains a form for other
responses.
     Based on the responses from the church the task force
will revise and prepare a proposed social statement, which
is due in early 2009.  The proposed social statement will
be given to the ELCA Church Council for its consideration
and with a request to place the document on the agenda of
the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for action.  The Church
Council is the ELCA's legislative authority between
churchwide assemblies.
     The 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly initiated the
process to develop a social statement on human sexuality.
At the direction of the council, a task force was formed
to carry out the process.  The task force published three
studies and a youth resource to invite deliberation and
response across the ELCA under the "Journey Together
Faithfully" banner.

Content of the ELCA 'Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality'
     The draft social statement does not address current
ELCA policies, which "preclude practicing homosexual persons
from the rosters of this church."  The task force has been
asked to make recommendations on official church rosters to
the 2009 churchwide assembly.  These recommendations will be
available in February 2009.
     There are four primary sections between the draft social
statement's introduction and conclusion:  "Theological and
ethical foundations for understanding sexuality"; "Sexuality
as part of God's creative activity"; "Trust at the heart of
faith active in love"; and, "Social trust and the common good."
     Section one recognizes that the Lutheran tradition has
a unique contribution to the conversation and moral
discernment on human sexuality.  Section two explores a
Lutheran approach to sexual ethics.  Section three describes
"God's gift of sexuality" in creation.
     Section four looks at matters of trust -- how trust
among people "forms the basis of healthy relationships,
including sexual relationships."  This section also looks
at marriage, cohabitation, same-gender relationships and
more.  The draft social statement says that in commitment
and sexuality "this church teaches that degrees of physical
intimacy should be carefully matched to degrees of affection
and commitment.  This also suggests a way to understand why
this church has taught that the greatest physical intimacies,
such as intercourse, should be matched with and sheltered by
the highest level of binding commitment, such as found in
marriage."  The draft statement says that the ELCA "does not
favor or give approval to cohabitation arrangements outside
of marriage" but that there are broad social forces and that
"certain laws and economic realities in this society create
economic hardship for many, including senior citizens, who
desire to be legally married."
     The draft statement says that after "many years of
study and conversation, this church does not have consensus
regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.
This church has committed itself to continuing to accompany
one another in study, prayer, discernment and pastoral care."
     Section five extends to the area of how "trust fosters
healthy sexuality in community life."
     "Lutherans believe that there is nothing we can do
-- either right or wrong action -- to win the love of God.
God's love comes to us despite who we are.  And, we respond
to that love by caring for and seeking the good of our
neighbor," said Larson.
     "This draft social statement insists that God has
created us as sexual and therefore relational beings.  This
is God's intention and it is good.  It is for this reason that
the theme of trust is so evident, because trust is the
cornerstone for the flourishing of all relationships and of
society," said Larson.  "In no area of our lives is trust more
critical than in the area of human sexuality.  We are therefore
called to demonstrate trust in all of our relationships and to
work to make this world a more trustworthy place."
     Lutherans do not make up a "rule book of right and wrong
behaviors" which, Larson said, will not be found in the draft
social statement.  "Lutherans seek to help people make ethical
decisions in the midst of the messiness of life," she said,
adding that the draft social statement on human sexuality speaks
strongly against "all the causes of harm, including and
especially the violation of trust for children," and the misuse
of trust and power in all relationships.
     According to the Rev. Peter Strommen, bishop, ELCA
Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Duluth, and task force chair,
the draft social statement "intentionally grounds its thinking
in an evangelical Lutheran tradition.  The reader will notice
this as a prominent characteristic of the document.  In addition,
a case is made for important social institutions such as marriage.
It is recognized that the same degree of social consensus that
once existed can no longer be assumed.  The use of 'trust'
represents a fresh approach that is embedded in Lutheran tradition
and effective in addressing both public and personal dimensions
of human sexuality.  This document works with the
inter-relationship of the social, cultural, economic and
religious, both private and public."
     Strommen added that the intent of the draft social
statement is "churchwide engagement and feedback.  The
invitation is, 'let's think together and improve this document
before it comes as a proposed statement in 2009."
- - -
     The "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" of
the ELCA is available at http://www.ELCA.org/faithfuljourney/draft
on the ELCA's Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

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