Several years ago, I sent an email to Bishop Eaton sharing a concern that I had about seminarians with traditional views on human sexuality and marriage. Earlier that year, there had been a crisis at United Lutheran Seminary, when it was discovered that the seminary president had once considered homosexuality to be sinful. What was worse, she had belonged to an organization that advocated conversion therapy. The student body, along with ReconcilingWorks, demanded that she either resign or be fired. In addition, ReconcilingWorks withdrew its endorsement of ULS as an RIC (Reconciling in Christ) seminary. After the president’s resignation, ULS worked diligently to regain that endorsement.
Given that a formerly traditional president was deemed unacceptable, I was concerned that ReconcilingWorks also considered traditional professors and students to be unacceptable. Therefore, I wrote to Bishop Eaton to ask whether traditional students were still welcome at ELCA seminaries. Bishop Eaton reassured me that they were indeed welcome. After all, she said, the goal of ReconcilingWorks was inclusivity. They wanted to make sure that all people were welcome in the ELCA. They were also committed to the notion that we could live together in spite of our differences.
I decided to find out if this was the case. I contacted my synod’s branch of ReconcilingWorks. I told them that my congregation had traditional values on sex and marriage, but was committed to living together in spite of our differences. Could we become a RIC congregation? The answer was “No.” Only congregations that are committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people could be RIC congregations.
Since this contradicted what Bishop Eaton told me, I asked what ReconcilingWorks’ expectations were for synods and seminaries. I was referred to the national office of ReconcilingWorks. They confirmed what I had been told about their expectations for congregations. When I asked about their expectations for synods and seminaries, I was told that they were different. I asked them to be more specific. Did ReconcilingWorks expect synods to weed out traditional pastors in the call process? Did they expect candidacy committees to weed out traditional candidates for ordination or rostered ministry? Furthermore, did they expect seminaries to refuse to hire professors who held traditional views, or refuse to accept applications from students with traditional views? The spokesperson for ReconcilingWorks declined to answer those questions in writing. She offered to discuss it further by phone. Thinking that was a waste of time, I did not call her.
However, in 2021, I decided to try again. I contacted the same spokesperson and received the same reply. She was unwilling to answer my questions in writing, but was willing to discuss it on the phone. Unfortunately, when I called, there was no answer. I left a message asking her to return my call, but she did not. After further attempts, I gave up.
What I have concluded from all of this is that ReconcilingWorks is not committed to the inclusion of all people despite their views on sexuality and marriage. Instead, they are committed to the gradual conversion of all congregations, synods, and seminaries to their position. It isn’t surprising that this is the goal of ReconcilingWorks, but at the least, we should expect them to be honest about it. More importantly, since the ELCA endorses ReconcilingWorks as a ministry partner, and consults them before making any important decision, it should be honest about the true agenda of ReconcilingWorks.