calendar August 19, 2009 in News

Bishop praises respectful deliberation on social statement

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted 676-338 on Aug. 19 to adopt its 10th social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and TrustThe statement required a 2/3 majority to pass and was adopted by a vote of exactly 66.67% in favor.  Following the action Bishop Claire S. Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod released the following statement:

I am pleased that our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has crafted and adopted a very important and comprehensive social statement on human sexuality.  Social statements in the ELCA serve as guidelines for public policy and church teaching.  I commend it to our people and our congregations as a teaching document and a conversation starter on a most difficult topic.

I am pleased that our Lutheran denomination has respectfully engaged in prayerful and faithful deliberation despite the emotions that arise around the subject of sexuality.

The social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, celebrates God’s gift of human sexuality.  At its best sexuality is loving, life-giving, self-giving, faithful, committed and a blessing to families and society.  At its worst, sexuality can be hurtful and exploitive. 

Sexuality is a gift and a trust.  Because of God’s unfailing and trustworthy love for us we are called to love one another as God has loved us.  This is a great trust.  Betrayal of trust has brought heartache and damage to individual relationships and to communities.

This social statement addresses the many issues of human sexuality which are already operative in society.  First it lifts up scriptural and doctrinal foundations for God’s good gift of human sexuality.  It supports loving families as a ground and source for social trust.  It emphasizes the protection of children and youth.  It discusses gender identity.  It lifts up friendships as good and encourages social support for healthy friendships.

The statement upholds marriage as a normative lifelong covenant and as the highest binding commitment for a relationship.  It also acknowledges that marriage provides social and legal protection for relationships.  Our church opposes non-monogamous, promiscuous, or casual sexual relationships of any kind.  As sinful and forgiven people, we cannot on our own live as faithfully as God intends.  We need help from God’s Spirit and support from one another.

This social statement identifies issues of homosexual orientation and same-gender relationships, particularly lifelong and monogamous relationships.  Our church recognizes that consensus does not exist concerning this issue, even after years of thoughtful, respectful, and faithful study, prayer, and conversation.

The social statement encourages us to live out our faith and to respect the consciences of those with whom we disagree as we seek to live faithfully together.  During this eight-year process of developing the social statement, we have practiced living together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements.  As bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, I am proud and pleased our denomination has modeled open, respectful, and candid conversation on a difficult, sensitive, and complex issue.  We have discovered that our unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ does not require uniformity, but allows us to live together faithfully.


Bishop Claire S. Burkat
19 August 2009