When conviction, like certainty, is not informed by critical thought and an evaluative process, it can be more dangerous than half-truths or even lies – to paraphrase Nietzsche.
In the current controversy outlined in the September issue of the Anglican Journal, the National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) will deliberate on the jurisdictional authority of the Eastern Synod, which in July adopted a motion allowing the blessing of same-gendered persons. NCC will consider the ELCIC constitution, bylaws and policies of national/synodical responsibilities as the primary basis for its decision. Within these parameters, the verdict might seem straightforward: to uphold the authority of the national church convention, which in 2005 first rejected same-sex blessings as a national policy.
On the other hand, if constitutions and convictions, like doctrine and dogma, were set in stone, then the Christian church would never have accepted Jews and Gentiles, blacks and slaves, children and women as equals of (white) men. If there is never struggle and change, never reformation and transformation, then neither is there the ability by the church to address the human concerns and problems of our time, in which case living truth itself dies, no matter whose interpretation of Scripture.
The authority of parishes to bless the unions of gays and lesbians is, of course, not just a domestic matter within the territory of the Eastern Synod, but is a sphere for national consideration, as it is also a foreign-policy issue with international ramifications.
Like the 2003 election in the United States of a practising gay Episcopal bishop, where there had been no national, nor international debate and consensus – the unilateral action of the Eastern Synod has made discussion and decision within the ELCIC more difficult and in danger of a politicization of a theological and pastoral dispute which has already pre-empted the place of reasoned reflection with the threats of exit-strategies.
If NCC decides in favour of Eastern Synod jurisdictional rights, what shape will ELCIC unity assume nationally and internationally? Will such an action compromise the ELCIC purpose to be “in mission for others,” or does it in fact evidence it? Do same-sex blessings really fly in the face of the so-called “absolute principle of sola Scriptura,” when the ELCIC ordains women – a practice which has no literal biblical basis?
In a church which allows blessings of buildings, furniture, sacred objects and even animals, all the while living in a world where the church also sanctions war and killing, how can the blessing of two committed individuals who love, respect and care for one another be evil? If the fear of schism prevents today’s church from following the lead of the Spirit, then the church of the next generation will most surely allow same-sex blessings in order to proclaim God’s divine “Yes” with justice, mercy and compassion for all who seek Her/Him.
Rev. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran church, Toronto, and writes for various church and secular publications.