JLE Portfolio: Sexuality: Law and Gospel

[1] I take some comfort in knowing that the ELCA is by no means unique in its struggle to hear God’s call and find its way when it comes to same-gender committed relationships and ordination, consecration, and commissioning of people in committed same-sex unions. We keep company with many other denominations, not to mention our legal system and state electorates.

[2] Because so much has been written about this topic, we selected a few essays for JLE that took an approach we thought would contribute to the overall discussion.

[3] We begin with Jon Pahl asking “Why Now?” in a well-thought-out attempt to help the reader understand why we have returned to this question at the present time. Pahl is joined by Paul Hinlicky, who answers “How far can confessional Lutherans bend to accommodate an urgently felt pastoral need and, if possible, to preserve the unity of the ELCA (such as it is)?” with a call for recognition, but not blessing, of same-gender committed relationships. Bill Lazareth seeks “updated ecclesiastical applications of Luther’s historic theological ethic” to encourage the church to allow civil rights for gays and lesbians while maintaining its traditional definition of marriage. Michael Stoltzfuss argues for a biblical ethic which takes into account the dynamic nature of biblical interpretation and the power of grace to transform us.

[4] John Stumme and Dan Lee each write about what is required even to undertake this discussion. Lee hopes for respect and listening, even if persuasion is not possible. Stumme seeks a center of normative teaching which gives us boundaries, but finds that thus far the task force and church council have steered clear of declaring any one teaching normative.

[5] Whatever the outcome in Orlando and the time afterwards, we are in the company of the communion of saints, struggling daily for discernment and wisdom.

JLE Portfolio: Sexuality: Law and Gospel

Why Now? Lutherans Join a Mainline Debate
by Jon Pahl, Ph.D.
As Lutherans move toward our Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, it may be good to reflect on our historical context. For Lutherans are hardly alone in being driven to debate sexuality over the past decade. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians–among others–have been rocked by questions about ordaining gays and lesbians and blessing homosexual unions. Why now? Why at this juncture in history have these questions become so urgent?

Recognition, not Blessing
by Paul R. Hinlicky
How far can confessional Lutherans bend to accommodate an urgently felt pastoral need and, if possible, to preserve the unity of the ELCA (such as it is)?

The Church as a Community of Moral Deliberation-A Time of Testing by John R. Stumme
The church is about speaking and listening. For those who believe the church has responsibility in and for society, it follows quite naturally that Christians should talk together about the relationship of the faith to their responsibilities. Christians have done so for centuries in a variety of ways, and in a democratic society with its emphasis on citizen participation, the obligation has even more plausibility.

Christian Eye for the Queer Guy by Michael Stoltzfus
Human beings, as far as we know, are unique in their ability to engage in moral choice. The endeavor to do this is an ancient and sincere striving; one that makes living a happy and fulfilling life a real possibility. But in trying to make moral decisions we often become overwhelmed by the immense moral pluralism of our modern culture and the sheer complexity of relevant factors that need consideration before informed decisions are made about a given issue of moral choice.

Antinomians: Then and Now
by William Lazareth
Fortunately, there have been no major attacks on my development of Luther’s theological ethic in the central body of the book itself. As a Biblical and systematic rejoinder to anti-Lutheran critics, there seems to be a broad consensus in approval of its densely-documented central thesis.

Living Together Faithfully in Community While Disagreeing
by Daniel Lee
I have great appreciation for the work that the Task Force for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Studies on Sexuality did as they wrestled with some of the most excruciatingly difficult issues of our time. I particularly like their recommendation that we concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements.

Kaari Reierson

Kaari Reierson is the founding editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics and is the Chair of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics Advisory Council.