Monday, April 12, 2010

The denomination I'm part of passed (what I think is) an amazing social statement last August that looks at human sexuality. (A small group in) The congregation I'm part of has taken some time to look at every page of that document. Because there has been a whole lot of conversation, at times contentious, about the ministry policy changes dealing with partnered gay and lesbian clergy, our look at the social statement was pretty close and thorough. We went through every section, every sub-section, considering whether we agreed or disagreed, whether there was too much or not enough written there.

What caught my eye yesterday as we made our way to the end of the document was the strong condemnations we saw there. For one, the document speaks out strongly against the sexualization of society, particularly (as I read it) popular media. It's harmful enough for adults to be constantly bombarded by airbrushed celebrities, but this document makes a strong statement against body image as portrayed in the media because of the impact it has on children and teens. A young person may be perfectly healthy (beautifully and wonderfully made), but when the image in the mirror doesn't match the (computer-enhanced) magazine models, the danger of negative self-image leading to destructive behavior in only increased. We all know that eating disorders have been a problem for young women for years, but recently the male quest for the perfect six-pack abs has led to a much higher rate of anorexia in young men as well.

The other part that caught my eye was the strong condemnation of inappropriate sexual behavior by church leaders. There is no room in this document for secrecy and cover-ups and other nonsense that (seems to be) practiced by the roman catholic church. If a church leader abuses his or her position of leadership for sexual gratification, the church needs to speak loudly and definitively ~ and the roman church has not done this. Of course, we need to model and practice grace toward, and even rehabilitation for, the perpetrator; but first, before anything else, we need to model and practice grace and provide for healing for the victims. This is where the roman church has fallen short. It seems that the leadership is taking care of the leaders first, or perhaps exclusively. To re-gain any sort of moral high ground in this area, the bishops and cardinals and vatican must begin by acknowledging past wrongs, both by the perpetrators and by the hierarchy. Then, the church must care for (or provide for care for) the victims of abuse ~ which may or may not include punishment of the perpetrators. Finally, and only when these things have been done well, the roman church will have the opportunity to take care of its priests.

All things considered, I think the sexuality social statement approved by my denomination is an excellent document ~ I just hope that we follow it ... well, that we follow Jesus Christ who is alive in the world and made known to us in the scriptures first; then, the sexuality social statement.

Probably pretty rambling and disconnected post, but still, it's my



  1. I think its really easy to point at the Roman church right now, everybody is, and the spotlight is squarely on them. However, this is a problem in ALL churches.

    And, we are the Body of Christ for crying out loud--what are we doing to help our brothers and sisters in the Body if we just say "we are doing it better than you" even though they fancy this approach themselves (the One true church blah blah blah)--it still doesn't make it right.

    The first person my mother was ever raped by, yes I said first, was a non-denominational minister. I know many victims from many demoninations and churches. This is not just a Roman problem.

    Hooray for the ELCA and other churches who are making a strong statement. But lets not point fingers and say we are better than anyone else for doing it. We do it because we care about God's people, creation, and because it is the right thing to do.

    My additional cents--for what its worth.

  2. Yes, Rachel, you're right. The problem of clergy sex abuse is absolutely and unfortunately prevalent in every denomination and group. In no way did I mean to imply that we're better than anyone else, or to point fingers accusingly because of behavior.

    I won't apologize, though, for pointing fingers based on policy, though. As we read carefully through the ELCA social statement on human sexuality, I found that our policies, and our guiding documents, are better than the apparent policies and guiding standards of the roman church.

    We are absolutely not better than them, or anyone else. But, from what I can see, our policy is better than the evidence I see from the vatican.

    You're also right that I'm probably pointing a finger at rome simply because the spotlight is on the vatican these days. What was accidentally edited out of my post is that as we were talking about this document the other day, that's where the conversation went. When the ELCA document talked about holding leaders accountable, and used strong language to do so, the folks who were gathered there immediately started talking about rome, because our policy compares favorably to their apparent practice.

    Thank you, my friend, for calling me to accountability.

  3. I couldn't agree more about the strong condemnation of sexually inappropriate clergy and I do not believe the Catholic church has dealt with it correctly. Of course we would be casting stones if we didn't admit to our own problems.

    I am still waiting to see how the Lutheran church as a whole as well as Holy Love ultimately handle the Social Statement on Human Sexuality. I think it will be debated on for years.

    Your comment about the sexualization of society is quite accurate and I saw a story on CNN this morning about padded bikinis for little girls as young as seven. This is just WRONG. Additionally, airbrushed celebrity photos that we stare at in checkout aisles at the store set a standard that is essentially unobtainable and really do contribute to people's self-esteem issues. I would blog more but I have to get to the gym and work on my six pack LOL.