The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church (the Anglican church in North America) tackled the topic of human sexuality at its meeting from 8-17 July 2009 in Anaheim, California. Now, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will also make decisions on related issues at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly from 17-23 August in Minneapolis.
The ELCA and Episcopal Church have been 'full communion' partners since 2000. The relationship is based on a common confessing of the Christian faith. The denominations collaborate on various ministry initiatives, may provide for the interchangeability of ordained clergy and engage in worship together.
On behalf of the ELCA, the Rev Donald J. McCoid attended the Episcopal convention. He said the actions of the Episcopal Church “do not parallel what will be before our churchwide assembly, although some of the concerns are similar.”
“The Episcopal Church has a different process for considering human sexuality issues and policies,” said McCoid, executive director, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
During their convention, Episcopalians passed a resolution designed to open ordination to anyone in the denomination through a discernment process outlined in the church’s Constitution and Canons.
The resolution also reaffirmed the Episcopal Church’s participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion, noting that members of the communion hold opposing views on matters related to human sexuality.
In a separate action, the convention called for a collection of theological resources and liturgies for same-gender blessings. The convention authorized the denomination’s House of Bishops and Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to devise and oversee an “open process” that would invite Episcopalians to gather such resources, and it requested a progress report on this work to be delivered to the 2012 convention.
The action states that Episcopal bishops, “particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.” It also “honour(s) the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality.”
Voting members of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly are scheduled to consider two documents related to human sexuality. One is a proposed social statement on human sexuality, ‘Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.’ Social statements are theological and teaching documents that form the basis for policy in the ELCA.
The other document is a Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies. The recommendation asks the assembly to consider a process to change ministry policies to make it possible for Lutherans, who are in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships,” to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers.
Both documents were mandated by previous churchwide assemblies.
The assembly is the highest legislative authority of the ELCA. The theme of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is “God’s Work. Our Hands.”