Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, January/February 2004
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Judging by my mail, some members of this church are convinced that the bishops and other leaders have already decided to go ahead and endorse same-sex marriage. Others are equally convinced of the opposite. Neither could be further from the truth. The leaders of this church may have their own opinions, but they have promised to serve the Confessions, conventions and council decisions of this church apart from their personal agreement or disagreement with any particular decision. The National Church Council's request that you engage in deliberation of same-sex questions is a genuine plea to the membership not to let this become a church-dividing issue. No matter what is decided, some members will see their position rejected. Will you stick to your confirmation promise (LBW p. 201) if it happens to you? The bishops will!
I think this issue is a red herring-an excuse for some to engage in power politics at a time when the church is severely weakened by social forces that want to deflect the church from its central mission, to alienate its members from their unity in Christ. Many issues are far more important than sexual orientation and more appropriately deserve the kind of energy and passion that is going into this issue.
Tops on my agenda is the National Convention's call for the ELCIC to become a church for others. We have been so parochial, so ethnic, so domestic in our mission agenda that we have let many opportunities for mission slip through our fingers. Corporate globalization has enormous implications for the future of health care, education, agriculture, industry, employment and our government's autonomy to set its own policies, but except for the tireless work of a few, almost invisible, people soldiering on, I hear virtually nothing in our church's domestic conversation about this. Wars are fought and whole populations lose their source of livelihood from the effects of this phenomenon, but I receive few passionate letters about that.
One-third of our church's population is made up of some of the world's finest young citizens: young adults between the ages of 18 and 30. They are interested in the gospel, in their world and in the church-but not the church that is more preoccupied with looking back in nostalgia than using the memory of the cross and the prophets to guide it into the future. These young people need leadership training, formation and the freedom to give a new shape to church political principles. Regrettably, it's easier to lecture them about sex than equip them for discipleship in the world.
Then there's the ability of Lutherans to provide leadership in the public sphere. It is in the public sphere that we have a chance to talk and work with others who do not know the gospel as Lutherans know it. We will not be invited to talk religious talk, but we will be able to show how to be grateful for God's grace through our care for community, society and ecology. But it's so much easier and safer to argue about sex, isn't it?
So, go ahead and get steamed about the sexual issues if you want, but Matthew and Luke's Jesus says he will be more interested in the number of people to whom you gave a cup of cold water and how much you hung out with the outsider and demonstrated in your own person the cross-bearing compassion of Christ himself (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 6:27-36). There is a huge body of stunningly unambiguous scripture about these things. They are the traditions upon which Jesus drew (Luke 4:16-21). Pray about these things and sexual issues will come into their proper perspective.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, January/February 2004