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It's out, and it's hot: a discussion guide on sexuality for Lutherans. Released last month, it is sure to spark debate both in and out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) between now and the next ELCA assembly in 1993. "Human Sexuality and the Christian Faith," a 55-page document produced by the denomination's Division for Church and Society, was designed to prompt dialogue and set the stage for a future ELCA social statement on sex issues. The material urges readers to examine with an open mind different views about marriage, promiscuity, and homosexuality.
At it's core the document questions biblical passages concerning homosexuality and suggests that scriptural references to same-sex relationships need to be re-interpreted in light of modern theories about sexual orientation. "We must distinguish between moral judgments regarding same-sex activity in biblical times and in our own time," the report states. It differentiates "exploitative" homosexual activity from same-sex relationships" in which there is mutual love and commitment."
The document challenges ELCA members to evaluate prejudices against homosexuals, insisting that "what we personally find offensive is not necessarily sinful."
Members of a 24 member United Methodist Church (UMC) panel could not agree on whether homosexuality is a sin, so the committee's 14,000-word report on the subject was referred to the denomination's national policy-making body, which will convene in Louisville, Ky., in May. The report contains a majority statement, signed by 17 committee members, recommending the removal of an assertion in the church's book of rules that homosexual practice and Christianity are incompatible. A minority report, signed by four members, argues for retaining the current language. The panel agreed that biblical references to sexual practices should not be viewed as binding "just because they are in the Bible."
Fierce debate is expected at this year's General Conference because at least 35 of the UMC's 72 regional bodies have approved resolutions calling for preserving the traditional stance.