Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I write to you as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and begin by wishing you God’s guidance in this most important gathering. As fellow members of the Lutheran World Federation, we have a stake in all that you do, just as you are connected in many ways to our ministries and the ministries of many Lutheran bodies throughout the world.
It is because of this close relationship that we write to express our concern for your deliberation on the issue of homosexuality. We have followed with great interest your careful progress, beginning with early discussions, moving through the study called Journey Together Faithfully, and now arriving at the point of voting on recommendations from your Church Council.
We are also very aware of the great upheaval which has been taking place within the Anglican community over this issue. That church has suffered greatly. The division has been, to a great extent, between the churches of the north and the churches of the south. We are troubled when we consider that this kind of division could take place within the Lutheran World Federation or between various Lutheran bodies throughout the world.
For this reason, we must share our great concern as we consider the recommendations now before you. As we consider the Church Council’s “Recommendations: ELCA Studies on Sexuality,” we are puzzled and indeed troubled. The first Recommendation commendably urges the seeking of unity, but as we read the Whereas statements closely it appears that pursuit of a clear understanding of Scripture is perhaps sacrificed in order to get unity.
The next Recommendation resolves to “respect the guidance” of the 1993 statement, but its second Resolved seems to leave in the hands of pastors and congregations the question of whether or not “respect” means “follow.”
The third Recommendation concerns us most, however. It resolves to “affirm and uphold” the traditional standards, but then goes on to “create a process . . . which may permit exceptions to the expectations.” This language tries to have it other ways. Is this not dishonest to members of the ELCA as a whole as well as to other Lutheran bodies around the world?
Brothers and sisters, may it not be so. We pray that we might all show concern for gays and lesbians, but do so by upholding that which most benefits them: faithfulness to the authority of Scripture. Nowhere does Scripture affirm homosexuality, and to be unclear on this issue can do great damage to who’s in our care as well as to our international relationship with each other. We pray that in your pursuit of unity within the ELCA, you do not sacrifice your theology and thus put at great risk your unity with the rest of us.
May I finally request you to distribute copies of this letter to all voting members of the CWA.
In the Work of Our Lord.
Samson B. Mushemba,
PRESIDING BISHOP, ELCT
NB: A copy of this letter has been sent by post