From the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada:
Following more than two hours of debate, delegates of the 2011 ELCIC National Convention approved a Social Statement on Human Sexuality. The results came late in a day and were done by written ballot, with 213 votes in favour of the motion and 134 against.
The document is the result of a four-year process involving: a study guide, a church-wide feedback process, a draft statement that allowed for further feedback opportunities, and the statement. The statement analyzes the current social problem, provides theological and ethical foundations, and applies insights from the first two sections to the contemporary situation….
“The statement is honest,” said a delegate in favour of the statement. “The church is conflicted but the statement full of love and grace.”
The statement, available here in draft form, says in part,
FAMILY AND MARRIAGE
We live in a world where family is a fundamental building block of society, and is a core factor in the formation of personal identity. Family is defined and lived in various ways by various people. Families may consist of couples (heterosexual or homosexual) with or without children, or an extended family including aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins. Some families include members not related through blood such as by adoption. Because of death, divorce and remarriage families may include step-parents, step-grandparents and stepchildren. Families may consist of unrelated people living together such as unmarried couples or friends or people living in religious communities. These various types of families have all come about through the influence of cultures, contexts, family histories and personal experiences.4 Most people consider family to be extremely important to their life and well-being, and hope that family is a place of nurture, care, security and support.
In Canada, civil marriage is defined as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”5 Marriage is commonly a primary factor in the formation of families. Some people form families without marriage and others choose to maintain committed relationships without marriage. We live in a society where many do not regard marriage as a prerequisite to sexual intimacy, nor a boundary confining it. Many couples who come to the church to be married are living together before the wedding. Elderly couples may live together common law because they are concerned that marriage would be detrimental to inheritances and/or pension income….
We live in a world aware of orientations other than heterosexual. Simple categories of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” do not describe the lived experience of some people. People use a variety of words to describe their own identity and reality, including: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, queer, intersex and questioning. These identity markers vary with time and place. In Canada, same-sex marriage is legally recognized by governments.6 While people experience varying levels of acceptance, those of other than heterosexual orientation live as a minority in a predominantly heterosexual culture. Along with instances of overt, hostile, and even violent discrimination, members of this minority may experience an ongoing disconnect between their personal orientation and the assumptions, language, actions and metaphors of the heterosexual culture.
UNITY OF THE CHURCH
The unity of the church is a gift from God. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”44 Being united in Christ does not mean homogeneity. In 1 Corinthians 12, the image of the church is one of wide diversity, united by the confession of the shortest creed “Jesus is Lord.”
When we feel tension around matters of morality, sexuality and interpretation of scripture, and hear threats to divide, Word and Sacrament remind us to turn to God, the true source and provider of our unity. The body of Christ is an image of unity.45 This grand image of the church expresses connectedness, accountability, unity- with-diversity, and a way of being and doing church that is a living sign of the presence of Christ. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”46 The depth and implications of this reality are truly astounding. God continues to transform people throughout their lives and calls us to mutual support in the midst of change and challenge.
A slogan of the Reformation was “the church must always be reforming.”47 In our own church in recent years, examples of changes that have occurred include remarrying the divorced, the ordination of women, and communion of the baptized. In seeking to change, or not, it is essential to consider what helps us to proclaim faithfully the gospel of Jesus Christ.48 Since God unites us in Christ, we are one even when we cannot agree on every detail as we seek to follow Jesus in our ever-changing world.