Lutherans to Open Sexuality Debate—Again

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The nation's largest Lutheran denomination will again face the divisive issue of sexuality when it considers resolutions on gay clergy and same-sex blessings at its biennial assembly in Chicago this week.

After the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted at its last Churchwide Assembly in 2005 to maintain church rules that ban noncelibate gay and lesbian ministers, many thought the issue would be tabled until a comprehensive study on sexuality was completed in 2009.

But 22 of the ELCA's 65 regional synods have asked the church to again address standards for gay clergy this year, pushing for change within the 5 million-member denomination.

About half of the 125 proposed resolutions to be debated at the assembly address sexuality, standards and discipline for sexual conduct of clergy and same-sex blessings. "The battle lines are being drawn," said one advocate, while ELCA leaders are pleading for comity amid the contentious debate.

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who is expected to be be re-elected for a second six-year term in Chicago, is among those who say the church should wait for the 2009 study on sexuality, called a "social statement," before taking action.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchSexuality* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesLutheran

Posted August 6, 2007 at 4:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Philip Snyder wrote:

Why is there so much time wasted on this acrimonious issue?  Why can’t we just move on and proclaim the Gospel?

Phil Snyder

August 6, 5:16 pm | [comment link]
2. Rolling Eyes wrote:

Philip, which Gospel?  The Gospel of Christ, or the Gospel of Inclusiveness?

August 6, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
3. Fred wrote:

#2 - Excuse me, Rolling Eyes, but many of us believe the Gospel of Christ is a gospel of inclusiveness.

August 6, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
4. Jim the Puritan wrote:

May be time to talk about putting out more seats at church again.

August 6, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
5. Adam 12 wrote:

Just slightly off topic but perhaps of interest since TEC is supposed to be in full communion with the ELCA Lutherans - one ELCA parish in Eastern Pa. is allowing lay people to lead the communion service when the pastor is absent. Seems like a trend that may be destined to grow in the current climate…

August 6, 8:21 pm | [comment link]
6. deaconjohn25 wrote:

Yes, Christ’s Gospel is a Gospel of “inclusiveness.” But on His terms. Not the dictates of “Christians” corrupted by a hardness of heart that refuses to repent of one’s sins and, in fact,arrogantly demand that Christ’s Church adopt the values and morals of “the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.’

August 6, 8:29 pm | [comment link]
7. Larry Morse wrote:

Why is so much time wasted on this issue? Because the issue itself is of overwhelming importance, both theologically and secularly. There are enormous sums of money involved and there are also substantial political consequences.

The question, “What constitutes a marriage?” has potential answers that will effect generations to come as well as present marriages. The straightforward question, “Can three people marry?” has vast consequences, and is moreover the one question that the homophiles consistently refuse to answer. And that only scratches the surface. LM

August 6, 8:35 pm | [comment link]
8. Fred wrote:

#7 - Larry - Gee, I’ll take a stab at that question: Can three people marry? The answer is NO! Those kinds of questions are red herrings in the marriage equality debate. What constitutes “Marriage” is between two persons—gender notwithstanding. These wacky questions are just thrown about to muddy the waters. No one has ever asked for three people to marry, or to marry their favorite animal. Let’s keep the argument on a sane and realistic level and not bow to fear-mongering, ridicule or outright stupidity.

August 6, 8:47 pm | [comment link]
9. Jim the Puritan wrote:

The Unitarians are already moving on to polygamy, or “polyamory” as they call it, as the next step in the progression of redefining marriage. 

Committed to marriage for the masses
Polyamorists say they relate honestly to multiple partners
Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Unitarians from Boston to Berkeley have opened another front in the liberal crusade to expand the definition of marriage and family in America.

It’s the new polygamy, and according to the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, their relationships are at least as ethical as other marriages—gay or straight.

“Polyamory is never having to say you’ve broken up,’’ said Sally Amsbury of Oakland, whose sex and love life openly includes her husband and two “other significant others,” known in polyamory parlance as “OSOs.”

Amsbury serves on the national board of directors of the Unitarian Universalist organization, which defines polyamory as “the philosophy and practice of loving or relating intimately to more than one other person at a time with honesty and integrity.’’


One set of guidelines for church blessings of polyamorous partners suggests that the officiating minister try to put people at ease by saying, “We are from many different faith traditions, and we have many different experiences of love. What made us say ‘yes’ to being here was the love among these people.’’

August 6, 9:06 pm | [comment link]
10. deaconjohn25 wrote:

  Only ten or 20 years ago the whole idea of anyone claiming that a man could marry a man would have not only been considered whacky, but insane ,perverse, and morally evil.  But today, some Christian denominations make such men into bishops and bless such immoral unions.
    There is far more precedent for 3 in a marriage—especially for a man and more than one woman as in the Islamic World. As for recognizing human copulating with animals and calling such bestial relations “marriage”—it is not too farfetched in a society like ours which has lost all sense of morality. For we know from police records that bestiality does occur—last week a man was caught copulating with a sheep. I think it was here in Mass. where marriage has been shipwrecked by an all-powerful Supreme Court.
    Combine this immoral proclivity with the almost crazed love some people have for their pets—how can we not also ratify THIS love that “dare not speak its name. In fact, to endorse Gay Rights some courts have used words and rationals which clearly would outlaw laws against bestiality and open the way for Joe to “marry” Lassie.

August 6, 9:08 pm | [comment link]
11. Philip Snyder wrote:

Fred - three people have asked to get married before and the law forbids it.  So, from a secular perspective, why is “two” the number of marriage?  Why only two?  If the state can change the definition of marriage or the state can define marriage, then why can’t three or more get married?  All we have to do is redefine the term or get the courts to redefine the term.

I believe in a gospel of inclusion and exclusion.  Jesus includes those willing to say to him “Thy will be done.”  He excludes those who insist on saying “My will be done.”  We accept God and are accepted by Him on His terms, not on ours.

Phil Snyder

August 6, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
12. Jim the Puritan wrote:

As a legal matter, I don’t see how you can legalize gay marriage without opening the door to polygamy.  The arguments are identical.  In fact, I suspect based on the logic of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling requiring gay marriage, polygamy is already legal in Massachusetts even though the court denies that is the result of their decision.  It just requires a threesome to bring the same suit after being denied their license.

The polygamists certainly view the decision in this manner:

August 6, 9:16 pm | [comment link]
13. DavidBennett wrote:

“#7 - Larry - Gee, I’ll take a stab at that question: Can three people marry? The answer is NO! Those kinds of questions are red herrings in the marriage equality debate. What constitutes “Marriage” is between two persons—gender notwithstanding. These wacky questions are just thrown about to muddy the waters.”

It is funny, but 50 years ago, had someone even suggested that a man would marry another man, those in the discussion would certainly have declared such a suggestion to be so absurd as not even worth discussing. Asking, “but won’t allowing divorce lead to gay marriage?” would have been so wacky, it would have been seen as a red herring. ECUSA seems to lead the way into the newest wackiness…just give it time.

August 6, 11:02 pm | [comment link]
14. Bill Matz wrote:

Jim (#12),

Justice Scalia made the same observation in Lawrence v. TX: the majority’s reasoning left no legal basis to prohibit polygamy.

August 6, 11:54 pm | [comment link]
15. Harry Edmon wrote:

We do not waste any time about it in the LCMS!

August 7, 12:02 am | [comment link]
16. Brian from T19 wrote:

Every single time the issue of same-sex marriage comes up we get a new crop of people throwing out polyamory and bestiality arguments.  And every time their sad attempts at arguing what they hear on conservative talk radio shows fail.

The rationale for denying the right to polygamy is that it creates too great a burden on the State.  Same-sex marriage does not.  Lawrence v. Texas leaves a legal basis which is the interest of the State.

August 7, 7:50 am | [comment link]
17. physician without health wrote:

Harry is right; LCMS is true to its confessions and does not waste time nipping threats in the bud.  A little over 30 years ago, they faced a crisis in which faculty at one of their large seminaries were teaching what amounted to heresy over the issue of Biblical authority.  The LCMS wasted no time in dealing with this (there is now a book about this episode which I had a chance to browse several months ago during a visit to a Borders in Atlanta).  If only we in ECUSA had done the same…

August 7, 8:25 am | [comment link]
18. Larry Morse wrote:

Too great a burden on the state? This means? You last paragraph does not makes sense to me. How does the case cited justify your scoff?

  The Mass Supremes laid the groundwork for multiple marriages, not conservative talk show hosts, whoever they are. The Supremes made marriage a civil right. To be sure, they said between two people, but they established no legal rationale for limiting marriage to two. In their civil right argument, however, they laid the groundwork for using the refusal of civil rights as grounds for all alterations in the definition of marriage. THis is the heart of the matter. If marriage, properly so called, is a civil right open to all and constitutionally protected, then the numbers engaged is irrelevant - must be,indeed. LM

August 7, 8:28 am | [comment link]
19. Brian from T19 wrote:

It’s basic Constitutional Law.  The State has no right to limit our freedoms UNLESS there is a compelling State interest.  The interest of the State in preventing polygamous marriage is far greater than the slight interest in same-sex marriage

August 7, 8:56 am | [comment link]
20. Philip Snyder wrote:

Can you show me the compelling state interest in limiting marriage to two people?  I agree that marrying animals is an absurd argument because animals lack the capacity to enter into contracts.  However, people do not.  I do not understand the state’s interest in limiting the definition of marriage to two people.  If there is an interest there, then why is there not an interest in limiting marriage to one man and one woman?

Phil Snyder

August 7, 9:57 am | [comment link]
21. David Fischler wrote:

Re #19

Brian is correct about the “compelling state interest” argument. But it sounds as if he is asserting that the question has already been decided. In fact, it hasn’t. The only Supreme Court decision to deal with the question of polygamy (Reynolds v. United States) predates the “compelling state interest” standard. It should also be noted that this standard is difficult to meet, and any state that wishes to maintain the ban on polygamy will be forced to demonstrate with significant evidence that it actually does have a compelling interest in doing so. The fact is that with the present state of the law, I think it likely that one or more state supreme courts will rule the ban unconstitutional, using a combination of Lawrence arguments and those of the Massachusetts gay marriage decision. What the SCOTUS will then do is anyone’s guess, though I imagine the ban would have a better chance with the current composition of the Court than it would have five years ago.

August 7, 10:08 am | [comment link]
22. Rolling Eyes wrote:

Fred: “No one has ever asked for three people to marry”

No one?  EVER???  Awfully sure of yourself.  And, of course, you are wrong.  It was widely documented that where same-sex “marriages” are allowed, there has also been a spike of polygamous “marriage” requests.  It isn’t so “unrealistic”, no matter how much you’d like it to be so.

“Excuse me, Rolling Eyes, but many of us believe the Gospel of Christ is a gospel of inclusiveness.”

Your problem, however, is that is where you stop.

August 7, 11:53 am | [comment link]
23. Phil wrote:

“The rationale for denying the right to polygamy is that it creates too great a burden on the State.”

When do Medicaid and Medicare get struck down, then, Brian?  How about the validity of the various and sundry Child and Welfare Service agencies around the country?  We could go on and on listing programs and agencies whose burdens dwarf anything a regime of polygamy would impose.

Bottom line: you’re wrong.

August 7, 12:35 pm | [comment link]
24. Larry Morse wrote:

What I need to know therefore is why a state has a compelling interest in polygamy? What burden does it impose such that the state must intervene? LM

August 7, 1:06 pm | [comment link]
25. Jim the Puritan wrote:

The only government reason against polygamy with teeth that has been put forward is that it allows men to victimize underage girls.  (E.g., the recent polygamy cases against the leader of that Mormon offshoot group, and the surrounding mainstream publicity about the sect’s practices.)  But to me that seems a rationalization and assumption.  Assuming Bill O’Reilly steps forward and wants to marry the two Maguire sisters (as he often says), and they are all consenting adults, I say, what is the compelling reason to prohibit it?  I can’t think of any based on the state of present-day morality.

The fact is that marriage as one-man/one-woman is a normative construct based on Judeo-Christian morality.  If you get rid of that construct, everything else must fall because there is no compelling argument you can come up with that can distinguish the separate states.

For example, I think you could make a compelling argument in favor of polygamy on the basis that it seeks to regularize what are now illicit relationships, where a man can sleep with many women, father children, and take no responsibility for them.  I hear that is the cultural norm in the inner city at this point.  Thus, encouraging polygamy would encourage the man to take care of his women and his children and thus would be economically and socially beneficial to society.

And unlike gay marriage, you could also defend polygamy by saying it is normative in many parts of the world, and how therefore can you be culturally discriminatory and not inclusive?

Sound absurd?  Maybe.  But no more absurd than all the now-familiar arguments on gay marriage would sound to past generations.

August 7, 2:31 pm | [comment link]
26. Adam 12 wrote:

The victims of polyamorousness generally tend to be those defenseless children that irresponsible sexual conduct tends to bring into being. I think that if one imagines oneself to be a child in such a “family” it becomes clear that the traditional man/woman family is far preferable. Too much of the sexual debate focuses on people’s rights…too little on those by-products, the children, who are not by nature equipped to fend for themselves. Children are the victims of the sexual revolution.

August 7, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
27. Brian from T19 wrote:

Good Lord people!  What a waste of energy on this ridiculous argument.  The compelling State interest is the chaos caused by the number.  First, ask yourself what is different.  In this instance the only difference is the numbers.  It is not a question of gender or morality.  The interest that the State has is the impact on Family Law, Property Law, Wills & Trusts, Contract Law - really the list is endless.

August 7, 6:08 pm | [comment link]
28. chips wrote:

Brian is being disengenuous.  Prior to being admitted to the Union Utah allowed bigamamy. I understand that Mormans are very orderly and organized folk so presumably they passed laws that dealt with any “chaos”.  Utah was required to outlaw bigamy in order to be admitted to the union.  Fred’s comments are ridiculous - there are many practising bigamists who would love to have the state sanction their relationships and stop prosecuting them and release them from prison!!!  From a moral standpoint I think the western civilization taboo against crossing the gender line has historically been far greater than the number line.

August 7, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
29. Brian from T19 wrote:

What’s disingenuous about that?  They had to stop in order to be admitted as a State.  That proves my point.

August 7, 6:44 pm | [comment link]
30. Jim the Puritan wrote:

In this instance the only difference is the numbers.  It is not a question of gender or morality.  The interest that the State has is the impact on Family Law, Property Law, Wills & Trusts, Contract Law - really the list is endless.

By the way, legally none of these things are considered “compelling state interests.”  And even if they were, isn’t it the exact same situation for same-sex marriage causing problems in these regards, since all the laws are presently geared towards one man/ one woman?  For example, certainly in my state the entire rationale for protection of marital assets, known as “tenancy by the entirety,” is largely compromised since the legal foundation of that doctrine is primarily to protect the children of the family unit from being put into poverty by creditors of one spouse.  Protection of children no longer seems to be a viable argument for upholding traditional marriage, so I figure one of these days a smart creditor’s attorney is going to get the courts to invalidate “tenancy by the entirety” protections of marital assets.

August 7, 7:08 pm | [comment link]
31. chips wrote:

No Brian - it was because the rest of the nation found it immoral and icky. Your point was that it would be chaotic.  My point was that a very efficient US territory in the almost modern era was able to get past the legislation issues your raised.  The reality is that once we divorce basic Christian morality from law - all bets are off.

August 7, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
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