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Discussing Sexuality in the Global Church
Abstract: Lutheran World Federation considers guidelines for discussions of marriage, family, and sexuality.
In a plenary session, participants in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council meeting and Church Leadership Consultation in Lund, Sweden discussed a report on guidelines and processes for respectful dialogue on marriage, family and human sexuality.
The guidelines invite LWF member churches to address the issues and potential disagreements in light of the central message of Scripture, salvation in Jesus Christ, and justification by faith alone.
The 16-page document urges the member churches to recognize that disagreements over family, mmarriage, and sexuality can arise from the different ways these issues are perceived in different contexts.
Responses to the proposed guidelines were understandably diverse.
Rev. Hedwig Partaj, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Austria commented "We need not have the same opinion on marriage, family and sexuality, but should, nevertheless, respect each other."
Bishop Dr Steven Munga, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, said he appreciated the report as "good and fair," but pointed out that the issues being considered were affected by cultural traditions as well as by biblical interpretation.
Ms Satou Marte Hamadou, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon opposed the idea of having the discussion on marriage, family and sexuality noting that the place of woman in God's creation was to bear children.
Bishop Joseph P. Bvumbwe from Malawi said the issue was about a "potentially church-dividing issue."
Archbishop Janis Vanags, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, said his church did not find the report helpful. "In my church, homosexuality is regarded as a sin. When some churches have a different opinion, then it means division," he said.
Rev. Susan Johnson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, said the issues in the guidelines were not the only set of challenges before the LWF communion but pointed out that the guidelines could be used to address other issues. "They show a way of talking with each other with respect," she said.
Bishop Harlen Simangunsong, chairperson of the LWF National Committee in Indonesia, noted that in his country it is taboo and impossible to discuss human sexuality.
The LWF vice president for the Asia region, Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan reminded the LWF member churches that they belonged to a wider community, and urged them to consider their ecumenical context in their discussion about marriage, family and human sexuality.
The LWF Council received the report of the task force as well as responses to the proposed guidelines from the regional discussions. The proposal will now be sent to the member churches for further discussion.