I’m a Lutheran … actually an ELCA Lutheran. Yep, the ones whose August assembly took a dramatic step in passing a social statement regarding homosexuality, including clergy in same-gender relationships. To say that this was an easy decision would be a lie. So would if one said that every church member is comfortable with the decision.
Lutherans traditionally struggle with decisions, however, Lutherans deeply believe in faith, hope, grace, forgiveness, and love. These fundamentals are extended to everyone, everyone is welcome, and everyone has something to offer. The difficulty comes when some feel that “everyone” follows with “except” serves as a litmus test of faith and acceptance.
Lutherans want to do what is right, yet are torn when that feeling potentially conflicts within Scripture. On the other hand, wrestling with scripture, talking it over, and learning are typical characteristics of Lutherans.
The importance of education to Lutherans goes back to Martin Luther, himself a university professor. Luther believed that education serves the common good of both the church and society; therefore education is an essential tool for us to understand God’s word and place its meaning into practice.
I’m not a theologian by any means, but I do understand that the Bible is a very deep book whose intricacies can be overwhelming. Contradictory passages exist, and passages interface with both context and passages throughout the book. And to top it all off, people can interpret the same passage differently – and this is also true for theologians.
Some congregations are in the process of leaving the ELCA, and others are considering it. Many congregations, if not every, have members who have left or considered leaving. Although I sit and wonder what such action would prove, who it would appease, and how would it improve the situation, I also understand that individuals must act within their own convictions and do what they feel is right – just as the assembly delegates did.
In a meeting at our church shortly after the assembly, I heard some say that they were against the proposal, but they were staying because dealing with that struggle is part of the journey. Yet I also heard someone explain that they did not know if they could stay.
- Addressing the assembly immediately after the vote ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson wondered what he would say to three different groups.
- Group 1 just experienced loss, felt they didn’t belong, or felt abandoned – he would use Romans 8.
- Group 2 always wondered if they belonged, but suddenly reached affirmation – he would use Ephesians 2:13-14, 21-22
- Group 3 not only has groups 1 & 2 together, with not only both of the above, but also those who haven’t experienced loss or separation, yet wondered if what has occurred threatens unity – he would use Colossians 3:12-17
I end this post with these points:
- As Lutherans we know that church isn’t a museum of saints, yet we are a collection of sinners connected through commonalities, including disagreements.
- As Lutherans we know that living out the faith isn’t easy, yet should never think beyond ourselves.
- As Lutherans, we know that healing and acceptance will take time – and over that time an effort of not only reflection, but also discussions and exploration with those who agree and disagree – should be part of the struggle.
Christianity isn’t easy – nor is it meant to be.