On the first page is footnote number 2, which I post in its entirety:
Trust, as used in this statement, is a fundamental characteristic of right relationship. God is unfailingly trustworthy to us and all of creation. Just as we learn by faith that a right relationship with God is a relationship of trust rather than rebellious self-assertion, a right relationship with the neighbor is one in which each seeks to be truly worthy of the other’s trust. The trustworthiness that both fosters and can bear the weight of the others' trust emerges as a central value to cherish and promote. Broken promises and betrayed trust through lies, exploitation, and manipulative behavior are exposed, not just as an individual failing, but as an attack on the foundations of our lives as social beings. Trust is misunderstood if reduced to an emotion, an abstract principle, or a virtue of one’s disposition, although these all suggest its multidimensional role as an axis in human life.When I read the sentence --
In The Responsible Self (1963), H. Richard Niebuhr set Christian ethical reflection on a new course by treating trust as the center of Christian thinking based on the question of trust or distrust of God as the fundamental option in human existence. In terms of human relationships, he wrote, “Faith as trust or distrust accompanies all our encounters with others and qualifies all our responses” (118). Philosophers and theorists such as Hannah Arendt (The Human Condition, 1958), and Michael Polanyi (Personal Knowledge, 1958) have advanced reflection on the centrality of promise and networks of trusting reliance in human affairs and knowledge. Some social scientists have begun to identify social trust as an indispensable feature of healthy organizations, institutions, and whole societies, and social distrust as one of the destructive forces at work in the breakdown and dissolution of organized social arrangements. Such reflections operate in the background of this statement.
Broken promises and betrayed trust through lies, exploitation, and manipulative behavior are exposed, not just as an individual failing, but as an attack on the foundations of our lives as social beings.-- I thought of the studies and discussions that I have been participating in since the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly set in motion the process that is concluding with this proposed social statement. And the events (culminating in the "ordination" of Anita Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, weeks before that Assembly) leading up to that Assembly's call for a social statement. Indeed, "broken promises and betrayed trust through lies, exploitation, and manipulative behavior" is precisely what came to my mind.
Going back, indeed, to the very first month of the ELCA's existence and the announcement that three gay seminarians who were unwilling to promise living chastely had been approved (either by the faculty of the very seminary I'd been accepted to [the ALC way] or the Professional Preparation Committee that had accepted me as a candidate for ordination [the LCA way]) for ordination in the last weeks of the old churches' existence.
Going through the first attempt at a Social Statement on Human Sexuality, the first draft of which nearly blew up the ELCA one year after my ordination, the second draft of which was so innocuous that the whole topic of human sexuality effectively disappeared from the ELCA's public spheres for a few years (as we in the ELCA argued over our ecumenical relationship with the Episcopal Church). Until the 2001 Churchwide Assembly drove us back into a second attempt at a social statement, bringing us to where we are right now in preparation for the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
Yes, it has been "an attack on the foundation of our lives" as pastors of the ELCA seeking to be faithful to the teaching of the Lutheran churches. And as I read --
Some social scientists have begun to identify social trust as an indispensable feature of healthy organizations, institutions, and whole societies, and social distrust as one of the destructive forces at work in the breakdown and dissolution of organized social arrangements.-- I thought, "This describes what has happened in the ELCA," the destruction of what brought more than two-thirds of American Lutherans together in the mid-1980s in that giant step that brought us one big step closer to the old, old vision of one Lutheran church in America.
The footnote concludes,
Such reflections operate in the background of this statement.This may be the truest, most prophetic statement in the entire document. For how else could a Lutheran church, established to embody a Christian tradition of theological seriousness within the practice of the True Faith, have produced such a muddled asserting (for no defense is offered) of a brand new teaching, one that simply abandons over 1900 years of Christian teaching and reflection as just another possible way?
In the conclusion of Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, the Task Force (or a large majority of the Task Force; in addition to that linked statement two "dissenting positions" appear as appendices to the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies) writes,
This statement . . . seeks to tap the deep roots of Scripture and the Lutheran theological tradition for specific Christian convictions, themes, and wisdom that will assist people of faith to discern what is responsible and faithful action in the midst of the complexity of daily life. (p. 31)My best construction (drawing on Luther's explanation of the 8th Commandment) is, it fails to do so. (Alas, given that I have grown to trust neither Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust nor the process that developed it, I have a worse construction. Perhaps you can figure it out.)
When I finished reading the proposed social statement, I didn't know whether to cry or bathe. So I turned out the light and went to sleep instead. It wasn't a good sleep.