The introductory remarks for the previous issue (Pentecost 2003, Vol. 8 No. 1) began with the following words:
Christians struggle. We struggle with doubt. We struggle with faith. We struggle with the tension between our eschatological hope and our incarnational reality. Lutherans, nurtured by Word and Sacrament spiced with paradox, struggle with particular vigor. Our most heated struggles are with each other as members in particular of the Body of Christ.
Two struggles, more than any others, define the recent past and present reality of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: ministry and sexuality.
In an effort to provide thoughtful contributions to our common struggle with issues surrounding sexuality, we presented foundational essays concentrating on those things we need to think about before and during discourse on the subject of sexuality. In this issue we present two essays from experiential perspectives, one from a pragmatic sociological perspective, a report on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau Conference on Christian Sexuality held at Kansas City in October 2002, and a review of Faithful Conversation: Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality. Daphne Burt draws on her experience as a pastor/theologian to outline what she believes are potentially positive outcomes of the two issues presently before the ELCA. In Burt’s final paragraph we find words underscoring the purpose of this journal: “God has given us many gifts, and perhaps the most mysterious, funny, messy, profound and holy of them is the gift of our sexuality. . .I pray that we may continue to listen and learn from one another.” Diane Bowers, now a pastor herself, reflects on her positive experience as a parishioner with a gay pastor in a committed relationship. Stephen Warner, a sociologist of religion and Lutheran layperson, exhorts Lutherans to move beyond old concepts of “left” and “right” as he presents a conservative case for recognizing gay relationships in the church.
Another layperson, Wayne Cowell, gives a report of the ALPB conference that he attended in October, and observes that such discussions are not well known among laypersons in the ELCA. Cowell asks, “. . . what will the laypeople hear? How will they respond?” And a third layperson, your issue editor, reviews Faithful Conversation and reflects on the current discourse in our congregations, Synod and the ELCA in general.
In addition, Frank Senn, in his regular column “As I See It…,” turns his attention to another controversial issue—the situation in the Holy Land.
Senn’s segue into a different topic is salutary. Let’s Talk has devoted three issues (Vol. 5 No. 2, Vol. 8 No. 1, and Vol. 8 No. 2) to the sexuality issues currently being discussed in the ELCA . While we have not brought consensus to the Synod (did anyone think we would?), we have presented food for thought and further discussion. The journal needs to move on to other matters, but we hope that we have aided the ongoing discussion on union blessings and the ordination of candidates in committed same-sex relationships. If we have moved any of you to respond to any given article, or the discussion as a whole, do not let our moving on to other topics dissuade you from sending us your thoughts. We will publish at least a representative sample of what we receive. After all, the name of this publication is an invitation, and it remains open.