I find that usually I can anticipate fairly accurately with whom I will agree or disagree. However, there are times when I am caught by surprise. Such was the case with a public letter written by a member of the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).
On its website this organization describes its mission in this way: “Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confronts barriers and systemic oppression, and activates queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church.”
This is not the kind of organization that I would expect myself to find something to agree on with. So how did that come about?
A few months ago in celebration of Pride Month (June) the ELCA posted a link to the document, A Lutheran Introduction to SOGIE by ReconcilingWorks. SOGIE stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression.
Pastor Suzannah Porter, an ELCA pastor and member of the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, responded by commenting with concern that the ELCA was giving the impression that the whole church body is LGBTQ+ affirming, when in fact it is not, since there are congregations which hold to traditional sexual ethics with the church’s sanction. Pastor Porter supported her statement by quoting the Bound Conscience policy which is a prominent part of the 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. That document described four different positions regarding same gender relationships, which it acknowledged that people within “this church” hold “with conviction and integrity.” On the basis of “the bound conscience,” it said, “We . . . believe that this church . . . will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.” In other words, traditional views of human sexuality have the full endorsement and sanction of a social statement that was approved by no less an authority than an ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
What happened after Pastor Porter sought to expose the ELCA’s dishonesty by revealing that the ELCA actually sanctions traditional views when it tries to give the impression that it is LGBTQ+ affirming? Several things.
First, others replied to Pastor Porter’s comment with stories of lack of LGBTQ+ acceptance at various ELCA congregations.
Second, the ELCA deleted Pastor Porter’s comment – the only one, to her knowledge, that cited the Bound Conscience policy.
Third, Pastor Porter responded in an angry public letter condemning the ELCA’s action. She said, “It is Pride 2021 month, and I cannot be deleted today.”
Here is more of what she said:
“ELCA, get back here and answer for yourself. On the post listing Reconciling Works SOGI resources (found here: http://bit.ly/elcasogipost) you deleted my comment clearly stating that projecting the image that the ELCA is welcoming and affirming of queer people without clearly stating that it is also our policy that the church can call queer people to repentance and refuse to recognize same sex marriage is misrepresentation.
“After now hundreds of people think the whole denomination is affirming, you deleted the only comment that clarified your policy. And erased the testimony of the replies of people who labored to tell their stories. But you seem to keep the reattempt when I stated my position on the board and council. This leads me to believe that misrepresentation was not just an accident, it was the goal.”
What is going on here? A lot.
First, the ELCA sought to silence a leader in the LGBTQ+ community, in the name of being LGBTQ+ affirming.
Second, Lutheran CORE and ELM agree that honesty, integrity, and transparency are important. What is actually done in the church needs to match what public statements say will be done and what official policy says should be done.
Third, the ELCA’s misrepresentation, as Pastor Porter calls it, is dishonest and unhelpful both to people seeking LGBTQ+ affirming communities and to those who hold to traditional sexual ethics. It would be far better for the ELCA to be truthful and honest and consistent all across the board.
Now, to be sure, Lutheran CORE and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries would have totally opposite purposes for raising these issues.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries would want the ELCA to eliminate language that sanctions traditional views, while Lutheran CORE would want the ELCA to keep its promise and live up to its commitment to also honor and provide a place for traditional views.
Nevertheless, Pastor Porter’s point stands, and we agree. The ELCA’s actions were dishonest and unhelpful.
Click here to read the ELCA’s original post.
Click here to read Pastor Porter’s original post.