Thecurrent questions related to human sexuality, such as the blessing of same-sex unions, continue to be a divisive issue from which church, media and politics are not detached.
Like the Anglican church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) struggles with the subject. Individual parishes and even bilingual congregations like mine, whose demographic mix is primarily ethnic, are not excluded from the controversy.
Recently, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rev. Ishmael Noko, called on the global Lutheran churches to accompany the Anglican Communion “with prayer,” following the release of the Windsor Report which studied “the implications of actions considered to be in breach of the bonds of communion.” Authored by the Lambeth Commission, the report examined the legal and theological implications following the decision by the Episcopal Church in the United States to elect a non-celibate gay man as bishop and the introduction of a same-sex blessing liturgy in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster.
Certainly the question of our Lutheran/Anglican unity in the 2001 Waterloo Declaration is a significant concern, but the major challenge to the potential fracture, said Mr. Noko, must be the global communion of all Christians.
As General Secretary, Mr. Noko heads the Lutheran World Federation — an international communion of 138 church bodies in 77 countries, representing 65 of the 66 million Lutherans worldwide. Founded in Lund, Sweden in 1947, the LWF is headquartered in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva — a location that has ensured co-operation with the World Council of Churches and also leaves the LWF well positioned to act on behalf of its member churches with a principal eye focused towards advancing Christian unity.
Mr. Noko commended the Lambeth Commission not only for “the transparent process of its public communication,” but also for having “clearly upheld a high level of sensitivity toward different views represented among its members and the broader constituency.” At the same time, he underlined our Lutheran conviction that “the unity of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church [is] based on the holy gospel which unites us through faith.”
In short, the Lutheran view maintains that neither church membership nor Christian unity stands or falls on sexual orientation, much less on any person’s view of human sexuality, but on the call of the gospel and our baptism into the Body of Christ.
In fact, the Windsor Report takes its point of departure exactly from such an understanding of Christian unity when it states in paragraph 45: “All those called by the gospel of Jesus Christ and set apart by God’s gift of baptism are incorporated into the communion of the Body of Christ.”
Lutherans and Anglicans are agreed that Christians have a much deeper bond together in Christ, which is beyond our sexual orientation. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Galatians (3:26-28), that in Christ we are neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, but all are one in union with Christ. The church need not, must not and does not stand or fall on this issue. Rather, according to Martin Luther, its foundation rests on the gift of God’s grace made active in faith and love, by which we are all justified in Christ before God.
Rev. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran church, Toronto, and writes for various church and secular publications.