An Open Letter to the ELCA News Service Dear Mr Brooks: We, the undersigned students of Luther Seminary, are writing to protest the headline of your recent news release, "Lutheran Seminarians Support Task Force Recommendation" highlighting the open letter written by a group of seminarians regarding "Recommendations on Ministry Policies" from the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality." We object to the implication in the headline that all seminarians support the recommendations. A less divisive headline might have been "Group of Seminarians Support Task Force Recommendation." As members of the Body of Christ and the ELCA, we trust that our denomination's national leadership would prefer to act as an impartial facilitator of a productive dialog. Please recognize that your editorial work has the effect of privileging one view over another. As a remedy to this divisive situation, we request a news release under the headline: "Lutheran Seminarians Do Not Support Task Force Recommendation." Our basis for not supporting the task force recommendations rests on one continuous interpretation of scripture. We believe the 1980 statement on this issue by one of our predecessor church bodies, the American Lutheran Church, outlines that traditional approach, accurately captures the views of the majority of the people in the ELCA, and should be the policy of the ELCA. This statement is provided below. We believe and hope that rejecting the task force recommendations would seek to enhance the unity of the church and further our common mission of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in truth and clarity. Adopting the proposals of the Task Force moves us away from the position of all of our predecessor church bodies as well as much of world-wide Christianity. While we respect and acknowledge the sincerity of those seminarians supporting change, their statement that due to current policy, "candidates felt compelled to lie about their sexuality" raises questions about their understanding of the offices in which they seek to serve. Our church must raise trustworthy leaders that respect the accountability that comes with their public vocation. We hope that by offering this public statement of support regarding our current policy, trust can be rebuilt with our governing church body as it reflects the perspectives of all its members, especially as we continue to join together in our common work of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Sincerely, Lyle A. Belleque MDiv '12 Luther Seminary Southeastern Synod Brian Nehring MDiv'12 Luther Seminary Northwest Synod of Wisconsin Phillip Roushey MDiv'12 Luther Seminary Upstate New York Synod Jamie Strickler MDiv'12 Luther Seminary Southeastern Iowa Synod Ben Worley MDiv'10 Luther Seminary Northwestern Minnesota Synod A statement adopted by the Tenth General Convention of The American Lutheran Church (GC8O.4.43), October 1980, "as a statement of comment and counsel addressed to the member congregations of The American Lutheran Church, and their members individually, for their consideration and such action as they may deem appropriate." Ballot vote tally: Yes 8l2; No104; Abstain 15. (Paragraph G.) CONSIDERING HOMOSEXUALITY 1. We note the current consensus in the scientific community that one's preferred sexual behavior exists on a continuum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual and that homosexual behavior takes a variety of forms. We believe it appropriate to distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior. Persons who do not practice their homosexual erotic preference do not violate our understanding of Christian sexual behavior. 2. This church regards the practice of homosexual erotic behavior as contrary to God's intent for his children. It rejects the contention that homosexual behavior is simply another form of sexual behavior equally valid with the dominant male/female pattern. 3. We have reviewed the challenges to the traditional interpretations of those scripture passages that appear to proscribe homosexual behavior. We are not convinced by the evidence presented. Among passages cited as requiring interpretations different from the traditional interpretation are Genesis 18:l6 & l9:29; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10. While we see no scriptural rationale for revising the church's traditional teaching that homosexual erotic behavior violates God's intent, we nonetheless remain open to the possibility of new biblical and theological insights. 4. We agree that homosexually-behaving persons need God's grace as does every human being. We all need the care and concern of the congregation. We all need opportunity to hear the Word, to receive the sacraments, to accept the forgiveness God offers, to experience the understanding and the fellowship of the community of Christ. We all need the power of the Holy Spirit for ethical living sensitive to our own individual situations. So saying we nevertheless do not condone homosexual erotic behavior. Nor do we condone idolatry, pride, disrespect for parents, murder, adultery, theft, libel, gossip, or the other sins known in our circles. The sacrifice God finds acceptable from each of us is "a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart." Then he can answer our prayer for a "clean heart . . . a new and right spirit within me." (See Psalm 51.) 5. Truth, mercy, and justice should impel members of congregations of The American Lutheran Church to review their attitudes, words, and actions regarding homosexuality. Christians need to be more understanding and more sensitive to life as experienced by those who are homosexual. They need to take leadership roles in changing public opinion, civil laws, and prevailing practices that deny justice and opportunity to any persons, homosexual or heterosexual. We all need recognition and acceptance as human beings known to and loved by God. (***If You are an ELCA Seminarian adding your signature, pease add the following in the comment block: degree program, class year, seminary, and ELCA Synod***)
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