The saga of sexuality continues within the ELCA. As it does, I'm more and more curious about how we all set certain boundaries, where we set them, and how blind we can be (all of us) to the sometimes arbitrary nature of how we order our lives.
In some places, the freedom to call and ordain gay and lesbian pastors in committed monogamous publicly accountable relationships is a cause for rejoicing. There are many such persons already serving congregations within the ELCA, some openly (and bearing the subsequent censure required by current ELCA policy) and some covertly. As I read and reflect upon the work of the Sexuality Task Force and the resolutions passed at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, I sense that the intent was always to allow the diversity of interpretations regarding same-gender human relationships to be reflected in the ministerium of the church. That is to say, we are a church that does not have a unified understanding of same-gender relationships - and our ordained ministers may reflect the diversity which exists within the church, freely and openly.
But for some, this is a step too far. Thus my pondering of boundaries and arbitrariness. I simply don't understand why it is THIS issue that must be the line in the sand. And I continue to be utterly flummoxed by how little I agree with certain segments of the church in which I serve. I mean this in a sense of amazement, not of anger: how is it that David Yeago, Michael Root and I can be educated in the same basic theological vein and yet be so wildly different in how we interpret our Lutheran faith?
I didn't live through the debates surrounding the ordination of women; most of the ELCA's predecessors made that change before I was born. But thirty five or so years after the fact, I see that the consequences of doing that new thing has given us a number of incredibly faithful pastors who, had our church set its boundaries in a different place, would have been denied the opportunity to follow their calling to ministry. And, I feel compelled to note, there are some lousy female pastors who got calls because of this as well - and there will be lousy gay pastors getting calls because the ELCA has opened the door for them. They'll fit in nicely with the lousy straight male pastors, never you fear.
I guess what I'm pondering lately is, why this issue is, for some, the line in the sand that must not be crossed. There are a lot of passages in scripture we have chosen, actively or passively, to violate: why, for some, is this issue the one upon which scripture and the tradition of the church must stand or fall? Why don't we get this worked up over people, like myself, who like blood sausage? Or polyester blend shirts? Or farmers like my Dad who combine every row of their crops? Or the millions of men who shave? All of those items are found in Leviticus 19, one chapter after the verses in Leviticus 18 which list same-gender sexual intercourse among the things forbidden to God's people. And I don't mean the question in a facetious, "I can quote more Bible verses than you" sense, either - I'm honestly trying to figure out, for myself, why my own understanding of the boundaries has changed, and what that means for the future of my own ministry in this church.
I don't claim to have a definitive answer for any of this. In fact, the longer I listen to us bicker, the more distrustful I am of the certain and the confident. How we live together seems more and more a matter to be approached with great humility and a willingness to listen. I am becoming convinced that Meldenius was right:
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, freedom; in all things, charity.
Grace & peace,