Monday, June 1, 2009
LGBT ISSUE: the Lutheran way
I have spent an inordinate amount of time the past month dealing with LGBT issues in the Lutheran Church. Partly because I don’t quite understand how position statements work in Lutheran polity, I have been somewhat concerned about how the Statement on Human Sexuality is going to fly at the Church Wide Assembly.
At Synod Assembly (Diocesan Convention to you Episcopalians who read this blog) this weekend we crafted a memorial to the Church Wide Assembly that called for not only the ordination of LGBT folk but the recognition of same-sex unions.
The Statement (SHS) is a flawed document but it has made some statements about such sticky theological issues that I find it to be exceptional and praiseworthy. For a church that puts so much energy into the concept that “all are sinners,” the insistence that SHS has placed upon the gift of our human sexuality is an important statement. This moves the sex act out of the realm of the ‘necessary for creation’ into the realm of God’s creation for mutual joy. But of course, the SHS came under fire from those who find it too soft on LGBT, especially those in the ordained ministry.
I spoke to the issue as the only lesbian pastor who is out and for a congregation that has been accepting and reconciling. I must admit I found it difficult to do so, not because I was afraid, but because of the responsibility I had to all the silent LGBT people I know I represent. Throughout the rest of the 3 day event, people came to me and thanked me for speaking up, for putting ‘a face on the issue’. The gay and lesbians in the clergy of the ELCA are under wraps. They either keep it quiet or are unwilling to face their own sexuality, choosing, as I did for many years, to ignore what God had gifted me with. It is a terrible waste of human resources.
The ordination of LGBT persons will come about in the ELCA and it will not take very long to get there. But it was to my amazement then when I read Sunday morning that the Synod of Stockholm of the Lutheran Church of Sweden elected a lesbian in a partnered relationship to be Bishop of Stockholm. Woo Hoo! Bishop-elect Eva Brunne and her partner, another pastor, have a 3 year old son. I mentioned this to a member of the congregation and he said “Well, those Swedes have been sexually liberal for a long time!”
I don’t generally take on this issue on this blog but I guess it is time to. It is time to help folks to understand that being gay is a blessing from God, not something to hide from. It is a God-given aspect that makes us different from other folks and helps us understand what all Christians are called to—being different from other folk.
For 1700 years Christians in most countries have had the protection of the state to be Christian. They have not had to separate themselves from the majority of society to live out their Christianity. Now, in a post-Christian world we will have to differentiate ourselves from the majority society in order to live out our Christian calling. If anyone can teach what it means to live on the edge of the majority society, it is gay folk.
I rejoice with the Synod of Stockholm. I rejoice with The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church who has endured such awful reception in the Anglican Communion that he now has a companion in the struggle to confirm LGBT persons in their call to live as Christ’s own. I pray that Bishop-elect Brunne will be able to lead her synod with the calm resolve that +Gene has done.