I sit at my desk and prayerfully consider a statement to simply state my Biblical and pastoral understanding of the ELCA’s decisions “to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize and support lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” and to allow persons in these relationships to serve as rostered leaders (including pastors) of those congregations. I also wish to address the possible impact of this decision here at FEELC since our church council has initiated discussions on this issue. As a congregation we did file a statement with the Southwestern Texas Synod office on November 19, 2010 that stated we would not call a pastor in a lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship.
I desire to be the pastor and leader of this congregation to all people who are here, be those members or non-members. We are called to spread the love of God and to share his mercy with all the world. I want to be here to lead this gathering of God’s flock through the decisions ahead and to do ministry in, with, and through all of you. I reflect on conversations I had with the Call Committee about the churchwide decision that was coming and how that could play out in this place. I said then, and I say now, I will lead this congregation through whatever comes our way to what is best for this gathering of the body of Christ, and I will have to decide what my family and I will do.
This is a very heated issue with people very passionate on all sides. I agree with the Human Sexuality statement that “we do not have agreement,” and the decision of the churchwide assembly to hold up bound conscience, which Martin Luther used in his defense at the Diet of Worms. We are united in the Cross of Christ; we do not have to agree on everything. In this statement I am stating my opinion and position on this issue, and some will agree and some will disagree. I strive through all of this to be the leader God has called me to be in this place, at this time.
As I told the Call Committee, had I been at churchwide assembly of 2009, I would have voted “no” on the issue of allowing homosexual people in lifelong, monogamous relationships to be leaders of the church. This is not for reasons of Biblical witness or that those who are in these relationships are committing sin. If it is about sin, then we need to heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32 about divorce and remarriage, that anyone who is divorced and remarried commits adultery. So all members of the roster who are divorced and remarried must be removed from being pastors if we are not allowing homosexual people to be pastors because it is a sin. And in that vein, we all must be removed from the roster, because none of us are without sin. All of us have fallen short, and it is only by the grace of God that we are in a relationship with him.
Martin Luther stood on what he believed the Bible told him, and said at the Diet of Worms, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither sane nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”
I also cannot do otherwise. I do not see this issue as a reason to leave any church, which is not what Luther would have done. I am and will continue to be a pastor in the ELCA, a denomination that has faithfully upheld the scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.
Please know that I have been and will continue to be the pastor for all who come through these doors and will strive to help them all draw closer to God and the love he gives us, which is the central message of the Bible. Jesus said several times that the Law and the Prophets (which to Jesus meant the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament) hang upon the commandments, “Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we can only but love the other, God will take care of the rest.
Let us strive to show forth the mercy of God, knowing that is not of our works, but it is by grace through faith that we have been saved. God saved you to show forth his love. Let us build and nurture relationships in God’s church so that all can use the gifts they have been given for the glory of God.
I pray for this congregation and each of you daily and hope that we always strive to follow the path He has set before us.