Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homosexual Relationships: Has the Church Erred?

[Note: the following was actually appended to this blog on 1 March 2012; it is a repost of this post of mine over on the "Asian Lutherans Respond" thread at ALPB Forum Online at the end of July 2009. The context, as one can see from that second link) is a letter to the ELCA Presiding Bishop from the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong regarding the recommendations to provide for the ordination of those in same-sex relationship. It began with a question, to which I responded. It got a good reponse, so I place it here for posterity. (Vanity of vanities?) And we'll learn if it shows up currently on my blog feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and at spt+]

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Quote from: Charles_Austin on July 30, 2009, 09:57:31 AM
I raise the question again, just for fun.
Does anyone entertain the thought that the Church may have erred? That even if one argues for an unbroken viewpoint (difficult to do, given some blank spots in human history), might it be that this viewpoint was wrong?
My "just for fun" response, Charles, would be one you are wont to use on this forum: "asked and answered."

However, I shan't leave it at that, since this question stopped being "fun" a long, long time ago. With all due seriousness:

Yes, I have entertained the thought that the Church may have erred. After all, as Lutherans we hold as a matter of confession that Councils of the Church can err, so it isn't much of a stretch to suggest that an issue that has not been directly addressed by a Council of the Church could still be unclear for Christians.

Whether the Church could have erred and whether the Church is erring in declaring homosexual relationships, regardless of their qualities, as being contrary to God's will is another matter still. Here is where I am relying on 2 independent sorts of examinations:

1) My own, which started long before I was willing to become a seminarian because the particulars of the issue were very personal. I continued the examination while a seminarian at institutions whose teachers were frequently on record as teaching that the Church had erred, but found their arguments wanting. Occasionally creative. Alas, sometimes a bit too creative with verifiable history. None came close to convincing me -- as one who very much wanted to be convinced. My own examination continued in concert with...

2) The ELCA's examinations, predominantly through the sexuality studies leading up to the infamous First Draft of 1993 and the sexuality studies that have led to proposals for the CWA less than 4 weeks from now. Examinations that have had as available resources every single one of the theological minds of the ELCA and beyond.

Now, I will admit here that even before the charge of the 2001 CWA, I had been convinced by my own examination, by the theological conversations (formal and informal) while in seminary, and by the conversations that ensued through the debates within the ELCA, ECUSA, etc. of the 1990s that there was indeed no sustainable argument for changing the Church's teaching that all homosexual relationships are, regardless of other qualities, ipso facto sinful. This theological judgment was contrary to my desires, but my theological/pastoral conscience is bound to something other than my desires.

Nevertheless, I had hopes that, since every possible theological resource would be available to the ELCA Task Force, if anyone could offer such a sustainable argument, they would. I participated in all the studies. I read through all the official materials. I participated in many discussions.

And in the end, they offered no argument at all. They have given us assertions that cover the "sides" in the debate over the place of homosexuality in the Church, but there is no argument made for changing the Church's teaching on homosexuality anywhere to be found in the Report and Recommendations or the proposed Sexuality Statement.

In the end of nearly 8 years of work, given the chance to show that the Church's teaching has been wrong, having the best and brightest minds of the ELCA at their disposal, they did not even try.

And, I will note, in all the on-line discussions I've been in with you over 16 years, neither have you. It is always, "Some people believe...."

Now there may be some churches where such statements hold theological weight. If the ELCA is one of them, it has betrayed our Confession of Faith.

I'm not from Missouri, Charles. Nevertheless, show me, and I'll gladly change my mind. Otherwise, my conscience is bound by the Word of God, not my own desires. Here I stand. Until convinced otherwise by the Word and reason, I can do no other.

Pax et bonum, Steven+

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[Responses begin here.]

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