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A compilation of essays and comments by concerned pastors, theologians and laypersons, challenging denominations who are denying Christ’s resurrection, ‘demythologizing’ Scripture, blessing same-sex relationships, ordaining non-celibate homosexuals.

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Sexuality Task Force

—to ask for delay in social statement

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

News: February 24, 2005

A member of the ELCA Sexuality Task Force said Feb. 22 that he and his associates on the task force are, “all pretty exhausted,” from the three years of work they put in on their Report and Recommendations on questions about homosexuality and church practices, released in January.

Task force member Lou Hesse, a layman from Moses Lake, Wash., said in an interview Tuesday that the task force plans to ask the churchwide Church Council and the ELCA Division for Church in Society for more time to produce a social statement on human sexuality, which the church was to consider in 2007, and which is their next assignment.

He stated: “Personally, I think we should cancel the social statement work and just go with the social statements of our previous church bodies. I really dread trying to write a new one and deal with the changing mores that some of the task force members would recognize.

“With some of this, it’s like Pandora’s Box. If we open it, where will we be able to stop?”

The task force met Feb. 18-20 in Chicago and is not scheduled to meet again until this September. As part of their “debriefing” the task force learned that written comments were running heavily in opposition to their recommendations, Hesse said.

Hesse said a summary presented to the task force showed 105 pieces of correspondence were received, either by email or as letters. Of those 105 pieces, 22% supported the recommendations, 63% opposed them and 15% expressed no opinion. Of the 63% opposed, 50% of all responses opposed blessing same-sex relationships or ordaining persons in such relationships. The other 13% opposed the recommendations because the report did not accept blessing same-sex relationships or ordaining persons in them.

He noted that one of the pieces of mail opposing the recommendations was a petition signed by 72 persons. If those persons had been counted as individual responses, he said, the percentages would show even more disagreement: 13% responding supported the recommendations, 70% who opposed blessing or rostering, 8% who opposed the recommendations for not accepting blessing or rostering and 9% who expressed no opinion.

Hesse is the author of the first dissenting opinion in the report. In it, he urged maintaining current standards and policies and disciplining those who violate them.

The majority of the task force recommended the ELCA 1) preserve unity, 2) continue following a 1993 Conference of Bishops stance to support homosexuals in relationships with pastoral care, 3) keeping current Vision and Expectations standards for rostered lay and ordained ministers while not disciplining those individuals or churches who violate the standards.

Hesse commented, “There’s kind of an amazement among many members of the task force that there are segments of the church that aren’t going to go along with the recommendations we proposed as what would be best for the church.”

Looking to the future for the task force, he said that to even begin a rough draft of a social statement is just not doable with the current deadline. An ELCA news release indicated that if a social statement were to be considered at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, a draft would have to be issued by January 2006.

The task force first will have to decide its approach to human sexuality, said Hesse. “Are matters of human sexuality a matter of personal responsibility to God and neighbor, or are they systemic—that is, a matter of something outside oneself, driving ones behaviors, either positively or negatively? Or a combination of the two?

“Prior questions will have to be asked and answered. Things like what you believe about creation, what is the role of sexuality in creation, what is God’s intention around marriage and family life, about relationships? How do we define sin? Something we never could do in our work on the first recommendations.”

In addition, Hesse said, there is a variance among task force members about how serious the problem—the idolatry of sex—really is.

“Some would seem to imply that the level of idolatry we experience in our culture is new. But, you can go to the ruins of Pompeii (Mt. Vesuvius buried it in volcanic ash in AD 79) and see pornography on walls that have been excavated. There is an ‘adults only’ tour that goes into those areas and kids aren’t allowed because the images are so obviously pornographic,” Hesse said.

“It’s nothing new in human history,” he added. The Canaanite culture revolved around sexuality. (People) are just rediscovering old things. It is terrible, but it’s not new.”