July 15, 2011
Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) Human Sexuality Task Force responded to questions Thursday night from convention delegates regarding the proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality. The document is the result of a four-year process involving: a study guide, church-wide feedback process, a draft statement that allowed for further feedback opportunities, and the proposed statement.
Task force chairperson Judy Wry presented the three-part document, developed according to an ELCIC policy for social statements. The statement analyzes the current social problem, provides biblical theological foundations, and applies insights from the first two sections to the contemporary situation.
Beginning in 2007, the task force first surveyed ELCIC synods for input, then incorporated feedback into a study document that was widely distributed. The more than 500 responses were reviewed and the task force prepared a first draft. This again was distributed widely and feedback was incorporated, with final theological review by the bishops.
In her presentation to convention delegates, Wry said the task force’s work was informed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 2001 process, previous ELCIC synod work, and a related 1970 statement of the predecessor church.
Convention then entered into a session for Committee of the Whole whereby it departed from parliamentary procedure to allow delegates time for questions and comments.
Responses to the proposed social statement covered a wide range of topics, including the definition of family, the role of scripture in drafting the document, the definition of marriage, the intent of the statement, and issues of morality and salvation. Many delegates thanked the task force for their work.
Some delegates criticized the statement, arguing that its recommendations and purpose were unclear. Others said that the statement departed from traditional Biblical interpretation or did not adequately incorporate scripture.
“Scripture is not given enough weight here,” said one delegate. “The authority that we have quoted is civil law or human rights. Not enough authority is drawn from scripture.”
Other delegates urged for the proposed statement to be adopted.
“I appreciated the breadth and how it captured the complexity of situation,” said one delegate. She praised the task force for addressing broader issues of human exploitation and the idolatry of sexuality in current culture.
Some delegates spoke to how the statement had already led to change in their communities. One pastor shared a letter from a person in her congregation who found the statement “bold, sensitive, forward-thinking and inclusive.” After reading the proposed statement, this person asked to have her children baptized in the church.
Wry fielded questions and comments with support from other task force members. After taskforce member Rev. Sonja Free closed the session in prayer, ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson thanked delegates for the “respect and love” that characterized the discussion.
During Friday’s business sessions, delegates will have an opportunity to debate the specific motions put forward by National Church Council relating to the statement.
Members of the Human Sexuality Task force members are Bishop Steven Kristenson, Rev. Dr. Richard Crossman, Rev. Sonja Free, Rev. Jim Hill, Nadine Smith, Rebecca Ulrich, and Judy Wry. Rev. Paul Gehrs provided staff support.
- The Proposed Statement on Human Sexuality is available online.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 152,500 baptized members in 607 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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