March 13, 2008
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the NW MN Synod:
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you all. Today marks the release of a Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality by our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Folks across our church have awaited this day with anxiety, hope and curiosity.
During our just-concluded Conference of Bishops meeting in California March 6-11, I received an advance copy of the draft. I was grateful that it seemed to contain no bombshells that could easily be “spun” by journalists into sensationalized headlines. I appreciated the draft’s attention to the scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, its advocacy for traditional marriage, its emphasis on trust as foundational in our social relationships, and its honesty in stating that “this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships” (lines 1116-1118). I found in this draft a statement worthy of our study, discussion and response.
And that, dear friends, is what I hope you will now do: prayerfully study, thoughtfully discuss and carefully respond to this draft. Remember that this is only a DRAFT social statement; it does not represent ELCA policy. It reflects the best thinking to date of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, though not all task force members agree with all aspects of this draft. We can expect that our input may alter the face of this document—probably considerably. (The Conference of Bishops was reminded that about one third of the contents of our social statement on education changed between its release in draft form and the subsequent proposed statement that was approved in 2007.)
So I invite you to pay attention to this draft, as individuals and congregations. Please remember the November 1, 2008 deadline for sending responses to the task force. Our synod will schedule at least one public forum (a.k.a. “hearing” in the language used by our churchwide partners) on this draft, sometime before October—please watch for more details on that.
The outcome of our work with the draft will be the release of a proposed social statement on human sexuality in February of 2009, for consideration at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, August 17-23, in Minneapolis. We will also want to pay close attention to the implementing resolutions that will accompany the proposed social statement—some of which may “address….changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church” (as the task force was directed to do by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly).
May the God of all creation—who has bestowed upon us the gift of sexuality—guide, bless and direct us in all things. And in these days of Lent and Holy Week may you be transformed once again by the proclamation of the death and resurrection of our Lord.
Lawrence R. Wohlrabe
Bishop, Northwestern Minnesota Synod ELCA