Editor’s Introduction – A Matter of Conscience?

[1] Pages 18–21 of the 2009 ELCA social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, which consider same-gender relationships, have not gone unnoticed by members of the ELCA. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that, as the statement puts it, “We have come to various conclusions concerning how to regard lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships, including whether and how to recognize publicly their lifelong commitments.” Having discussed pages 18–21 with many, I can attest that the statement is right: people have indeed come to “various conclusions” based on “various convictions.”

[2] How do people drawing different conclusions — potentially divisive or fundamentally incompatible — on same-gender relationships live, worship, and serve together? The statement’s answer is clear: “with humility and deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of others … we … believe that this church, on the basis of ‘the bound conscience,’ will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.” It is also clear, though, that this answer has not satisfied everyone. Thus, many in the ELCA have called for further study of the idea of consciences bound to different understandings of Scripture on this matter.

[3] Enter Journal of Lutheran Ethics. This month’s issue features articles on the bound conscience by theologians John Stumme and Martha Stortz; Pastor Lauren Ley; and Matthew Ley, who just completed his research internship in the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop that included collection and exploration of materials related to the idea of the bound conscience. JLE’s December issue also will be dedicated to the concept of conscience, with articles by Randall Zachman, Diane Yeager, Derek Nelson, and Roger Willer.

[4] Back to November. Let me invite you to read JLE founding editor Kaari Reierson’s farewell; Roger Willer’s expression of gratitude and lament concerning Kaari’s departure; Robert Benne on Reinhold Niebuhr; book reviews by Paul Hinlicky and Bert Stabler; and Paul Bailie’s contribution to our series “Preaching on Social Issues.”

Victor Thasiah

Vic Thasiah

Vic Thasiah is a California Naturalist and trail runner.  He is the founder and executive director of Runners for Public Lands, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization, and an associate professor and the chair of the religion department at California Lutheran University.