Fallout from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's draft of a report on human sexuality continues to afflict the denomination. The Lutheran, official magazine of the ELCA, has published an editorial describing the controversial church document as "mortally wounded" yet valuable as a tool for discussion. In another development, Karen Bloomquist, who served as chief staff person in the drafting the statement, was asked to end her particiaption in the project effective November 15; she "reluctantly agreed," according to church officials.
In the Lutheran's December issue editor Edgar R. Trexler contends that distribution of the study document amiuntd to a "disaster." He also criticizes the document's content, saying parts of it suggest that the task force that wrote it "had an agenda." But he concludes: "Even through the proposed statement as written is mortally wounded, the study process should proceed. This culture needs a word from the chruch and the church needs to ascertain its mind."
Trexler said the furor over the document--its release prompted thousands of phone calls to church headquarters--resulted in part of from the fact that "sensationalized" stories about it reached the newstands before local pastors and people in the pews had a chance to read it. Pointing to the statement's section on homosexuality as hinting that that task force "had an agends," he urged that it should not have taken a position challenging the "love the sinner but hate the sin" approach to homosexuals while encouraging attitudes of toleration, or even affirmation, of same-sex relationships.
Meanwhile, attacks that some hav e labeled "unjust and abusive" have been leved against Bloomquist. In withdrawimg from the project, Bloominquist said, "I did not want to divert the ELCA's attention from the important deliberative procees around this statement. THis change will also enable me to focus attention on other important areas of studies work in Division for Church in Society." Although Bloomquist will no longer be associated with further study and possible revisions of the sexuality paper, she will remain the division director of studies.
Charles Miller, executive director of the Division for Church in Society, which prepared the document, pointed to "fears and anxieties" about the paper as prompting the criticisms of Bloomquist. "Dr. Bloomquist and I agre that deliberating on the subject of sexuality is a great struggle for the church today," commented Miller. "In the ELCA that is evidenced in the fears and anxities evoked by the release of the first draft of the human sexuality statement and the too-close identification of one person with the statement's development." The 21-page first draft, four years in the making, is the work of a 17-member task force from across the denomination; its release was preceded by a 50-page study guide, as well as churchwide hearings.
SBC seminary: No to conference on women
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisille, Kentucky, has canceled plans to cosponsor a conference on women in the church slated for March, citing indications that the conference would be slanted in a "radical direction." Until the decision to back out, Southern was on of five Louisville-area seminaries that had agreed to sponsor the event, which will include workshops and plenary sessions on the theological, ministerial, educational and social-justice aspects of women in the church.
Albert Mohler, newly elected president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Associated Baptist Press, "The scope and nature of the program wasa slanted in a very radical direction and was not at all sensitive to the concerns of evanfelicals." Added Mohler, who was appointed after the initial decision to participate in the event: "Evangelical can discuss the ordination of women to the ministry in contexts that are both sensitive and appropriate. In this case, the conference met neither of those requirements. …