Saturday, January 15, 2005

More Shame in the Body of Christ

U. S. Episcopal bishops have expressed "sincere regret for the pain, the hurt and the damage caused . . . by certain actions of our church." They expressed regret, as opposed to repentance, for ordaining gay divorcee Vickie Gene Robinson.

The biships were responding to a demand from the Worldwide Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Church declare a moratorium on ordaining bishops living in homosexual relationships and halt public blessings of gay unions. Though the bishops were really, really sincere in their "regret," they still needed a little time to study these controversial suggestions. What? Didn't anyone have a Bible?

Meanwhile, the "Task Force for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Studies on Sexuality" has issued a report. The task force was evidently created by the ELCA to spend three years figuring out how not to deal with issues of gay ordination and same-sex marriage. The report asks, but does not answer, the fundamental quesion:

Many people have asked for a simple answer to the question: Does the Bible say that sexual activity between two people of the same sex is always a sin? This question is near the heart of the division of opinion in our church because Christians who are faithful to God's Word give different answers. Among other responses that could be mentioned, some say the teaching of the Bible is clear and condemns such activities as sinful, while some say that the verses in the Bible usually cited do not apply to a love relationship between two consenting adults in a committed relationship. In this matter the ELCA needs to continue in prayerful study of Scripture with one another.

Boldly on display for all to see is the attack on the authority of Scripture that is at the heart of the homosexualist assault. The equivocation on display reveals a deeper divide over fundamental issues of doctrine, biblical authority, and ecclesiology.

In past statements, the ELCA has defined marriage as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman." And the task force itself said that same-sex unions are "quite distinct from and in no way equivalent to marriage."

Are you following along? Marriage is the cleaving together of a man and a woman, but "in good conscience" some can hold that sodomy is dandy as long as it is part of a "commited relationship." Hmm, how can you stand on both sides of that divide?

In the end, the task force designed a non-policy. Effectively, they said that ELCA churches should "continue under the standards regarding sexual conduct for rostered leaders" as previously set forth in its governing documents, but that, "as a pastoral response to the deep divisions among us, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who in good conscience, and for the sake of outreach, ministry, and the commitment to continuing dialogue, call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates whom they believe to be otherwise in compliance with [the church's expectations] and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called."

In other words, the solution to the problem is to simultaneously maintain and ignore church policies and governing principles. That's a long, long way from, "Here I stand, I can do none other--God help me."


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