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Reform movement leaders … call ELCA sexuality task force report misleading

by Pastor Mark Chavez (Director, WordAlone Network)

January 13, 2005

Leaders of the WordAlone Network in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) said today that a task force majority report on ordaining people in same-sex relationships or blessing such relationships is an attempt to hoodwink “the people in the pews” into believing its recommendations won’t bring change to ELCA practices.

“While the ELCA Sexuality Task Force may say it isn’t suggesting change in the ELCA standards for ordination, the recommendations in its report will bring about de facto change because they suggest that the standards not be enforced,” said Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland, WordAlone president, Spokane, Wash. WordAlone is a reform and renewal movement in the ELCA that describes itself as working to keep the denomination faithful to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.

WordAlone director Pastor Mark Chavez said, “Looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck. How stupid do they think we are?” Other WordAlone leaders and pastors have called the report, released today by the ELCA, “disingenuous” and “duplicitous.”

A dissenting report from some members of the task force, on the other hand, calls for affirming and upholding present policy and practices and for disciplining, “with all humility” and guided by Christian charity, those who reject the standards.

Current requirements are that pastors and other commissioned or consecrated ministry workers, who are homosexuals, must remain celibate. The denomination has no formal rule on blessing same-sex relationships, although in 1993 its Conference of Bishops voted against creating any such ceremony.

Chavez said WordAlone thanks the task force for reporting statistics on responses to its earlier published study materials. He said he regretted that the committee chose not to answer the basic question about homosexuality, “Are homosexual sexual practices sinful?”

The majority of respondents to the task force opposed ordaining or commissioning practicing homosexuals as ministers or blessing same-sex relationships.

The task force said it was recommending that the church not become any more divided than it is already over the issues concerning homosexuality and thought that dealing with concerns through pastoral care rather than legislative action or discipline would hold the church together while it continues to talk about it.