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Re Sexuality Decisions, 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Page history last edited by Pastor Jared R. Stahler 10 years, 11 months ago

A Law and Gospel view of being church together:

the mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


I'm reading (via various online news services) about the ELCA congregations who plan to withhold financial support from the ELCA because of the Churchwide Assembly's action to fully embrace LGBTQ people within the life of the church by, among other things, making it possible for all people who live in married, partnered and committed relationships to be ordained. A few years ago there was some conversation at Saint Peter's about placing our benevolence in escrow until a change in policy -- such as the one accomplished by the Churchwide Assembly -- occurred. We ultimately decided not to withhold funding, citing the importance of commitment and mutual care, as well as legitimacy in on-going engagement in the church. We decided that our life together as the ELCA is stronger than our differences. In short, we said: "live the Gospel."



We come to the ELCA committing ourselves to be the church together. All member parishes and all parishioners have the opportunity to affirm this commitment in the midst of disagreement.



I wonder if an appropriate response by Saint Peter's to the whole situation -- the Assembly's action, the potential action of some ELCA churches and CORE organization, ELM, Lutherans Concerned, etc --  could be to give more benevolence.* Give more? In this climate? YES Give something more, even if it is small.



Maybe we could give more to the ELCA via a special collection in honor of those LGBTQ people and their allies who continue to carry out the mission of the church at Saint Peter's Church and in memory of those LGBTQ people and their allies who were a blessing to the church in former years and who continue to be a blessing in the sight of God.



Such a gesture could create a similar tidal wave. Maybe it will fizzle. But surely, a headline could not read "Lutherans pull back mission funding because of ordination of gays."



Whatever it does, it gives us opportunity to be the church--to be the church boldly even in this time. To me it seems a faithful response. Very "Saint Peter's." Very public.



Our life together is stronger than our differences, we said all those years ago. If others want to pull back (Law), we can do more. We can believe and live the Gospel.



Pastor Jared R. Stahler



* A change in Benevolence to the ELCA would require action of the Parish Council and the congregation.




Dear Faithful People of Saint Peter’s Church:


Over the past four weeks, I have been asked to respond to numerous questions with regard to the actions of 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota (August 17-23, 2009) on matters related to Human Sexuality.  These questions fall into three categories.

  1. Provide a “Reader’s Digest” summary of these decisions in clear language.
  2. What has Saint Peter’s done with regard to these issues?
  3. Is there anything more we at Saint Peter’s can (or ought to) do?




Here is my initial pastoral response.


1.  I strongly recommend, as much better than I could ever produce, the ELCA’s “Reader’s Digest” or FAQ’s summary which can be accessed at http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements-in-Process/JTF-Human-Sexuality/cwafaqs.aspx.  Comments or questions?  Either use the comment option below or e-mail me at ajderr@saintpeters.org.


2.  At the June 12, 2005 Annual Congregational Meeting of Saint Peter’s Church, voting by secret ballot, we adopted the following resolution (resolves in bold):


Whereas, Saint Peter’s Church is a member congregation of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;

Whereas, Saint Peter’s Church is an evangelical catholic communion of diverse people and communities publicly seeking God’s nourishment and creatively shaping life in the city;

Whereas, the members of Saint Peter’s Church are not all in agreement regarding matters related to human sexuality that are currently controversial in both church and society;

Whereas, Saint Peter’s Church is committed to the full inclusion of all its members in every aspect of the church’s life, mission and ministry;

Whereas, Saint Peter’s Church is committed to respect diverse opinions and to worship, work, live and serve together in the name of Jesus Christ;

Whereas, Saint Peter's Church notes that some clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America from profound conviction preside publicly at Christian liturgies blessing all long-term covenants of love and care; and

Whereas, on April 11, 2005, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended that the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly “trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care for same-sex couples;” therefore be it

Resolved, that the people of Saint Peter’s Church continue to respect one another’s conscience in matters of faith and life, including human sexuality and particularly, homosexuality; and be it further

Resolved, that Saint Peter’s Church continue to encourage all of its members prayerfully to consider candidacy for rostered positions in the Church; and be it further

Resolved, that Saint Peter’s Church continue to consider all candidates for pastoral service or internships, including “partnered gay and lesbian candidates or interns, who are otherwise in compliance with Visions and Expectations” (cf. Report of the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality); and be it further

Resolved, that, continuing “to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care for same-sex couples” (cf. April 11, 2005 Recommendations of ELCA Church Council), Saint Peter’s Church support the members of its pastoral staff who publicly preside at Christian liturgies blessing same-sex unions; and be it further

Resolved, that Saint Peter's Church publish, for those members who wish to have their anniversaries remembered, the names of those members who are celebrating wedding anniversaries and of those members who are celebrating anniversaries of same sex-unions; and be it further

Resolved, that in the name of the Triune God, we members of Saint Peter's Church recommit ourselves to respect, support and serve one another as we struggle to hear afresh the message of the Gospel and to serve faithfully the present world.

This was the last action by our congregation on these matters and continues to govern our pastoral practice and life together.

3.  What might we do next?

I think there are several things we can simply expect of one another and assume from one another. 

  • We will continue to pray for, support and encourage one another and “provoke one another to works of love.”  Informally, we will also discuss these decisions and any future Churchwide, synodical or parish actions, with one another.  This is who we are and these go without saying.
  • We can also expect that some of us will — and some will not — advocate so that our legislators change marriage and other rules, regulations and laws.


What else might we do?


Here’s what my colleagues and I have begun considering:

  • After the 11 mass on October 4, Pastor Spellman anticipating having some conversation around the subject of marriage in general and same-sex marriage in particular.
  • This week, we will be asking the Parish Council to consider ways in which we can discuss the implications to us of the ELCA’s decisions together.
  • Since we have a “critical mass” of pastors, retired pastors, and potential candidates for ministry within our community, we anticipate convening them to discuss some very practical matters such as the implications of these Churchwide decisions on health care, pension and death benefits for those covered by the ELCA Board of Pensions.


I hope items 1 and 2 provide each of you with sufficient information to keep you intelligently informed on these decisions.  Additional matter on these and other recent ELCA decisions are easily accessible at www.ELCA.org.


I hope item 3 encourages and enables further engagement and discussion.  We have a lot on our plate these days.  Economic and justice issues, our need to learn, reflect and worship and a host of other issues crowd our prayer live, personal life and parish life together.  Yet, as the scripture says, “[We] can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.”  Neither Christ nor the faithful people of Saint Peter’s have disappointed on that score!


Peace and Joy,


Amandus J. Derr

Senior Pastor


Comments (1)

Lisa said

at 4:04 pm on Oct 7, 2009

I support the idea of giving more benevolence from Saint Peter's to offset those other communities who withdraw funding. I would even find extra dollars from my own pocket so that the other areas of the Saint Peter's budget don't have to suffer sacrifice to fund greater benevolence giving.

I may not be sure about how I felt about withholding funding in protest, but I heartily support increasing funding in thanksgiving for ELCA taking steps in what I hope is the right direction in these sensitive and important matters. And I support increased benevolence giving to honor those whose heart and soul and sufferings have gone into struggling through these controversial issues.

Great idea. Anything I can do to support the proposal, let me know, folks!

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