Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A New Lutheran Church Body


The recommendations about sexuality and ministry standards adopted by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly (CWA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were an attempt at compromise. Realizing that not everyone would accept clergy living in committed same-sex relationships, the Task Force created what has been called a "local option." Congregations that want to call same-sex partnered pastors are free to do so. Those that do not want to be served by such pastors are likewise free not to call them.

The "local option" has really always been in effect in the ELCA. Congregations have always had the right to call any qualified individual to serve as their pastor, or not. The difference is that the definitions of "qualified" individuals has changed to include those living in same-sex relationships.

It was a noble attempt at compromise, but like all compromises it was sure not to please everyone. Some of those who advocate for full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the church at every level have criticized the CWA decisions as creating a second class of pastors. On the other side of the issue are those who find it intolerable to be a part of a church body that would ordain partnered homosexuals.

Lutherans did not invent church-splitting, but we may have perfected it. In the aftermath of the 2009 CWA, some congregations have left the ELCA. Others are still in process of leaving. Some of them have joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a group that moved out of the ELCA 11 years ago over the issue of full Communion with the Episcopal Church.

This week Lutheran CORE, a group that has worked within the ELCA to oppose the ordination of partnered homosexuals, announced that it is forming yet another Lutheran church body, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). NALC distinguishes itself from the LCMC by a less congregational polity.

Obie Holmen found this interesting tidbit in NALC's document, "A Vision and Plan for the North American Lutheran Church."

The NALC and Lutheran CORE will recognize both women and men in the office of ordained clergy, while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on this subject.

In other words, NALC is proposing a compromise on the issue of women's ordination. It smells a lot like a "local option" to me. Good luck with that.

I had lunch today with a group of my pastoral colleagues. One of them predicted that within a generation NALC and LCMC would stop ordaining women. Personally, I will not prognosticate. I will simply recall what someone said about those who forget the lessons of history.

No comments:

Post a Comment