Thursday, January 28, 2010

Teaching Statement on Sexuality

The following will be distributed with the "Continuing Resolution Regarding Marriage, Gay and Lesbian Persons and Their Families, and Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Response to the Actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly" that was approved by our church council last week.
Teaching Statement on Sexuality
Evangelical Lutheran Church
Cokato, Minnesota

In addition to our individual staff reports and in light of recent decisions in our wider church, Nate and Amy and I would like to be very clear to the congregation about what we, as your preaching and teaching staff are committed to teach here at ELC.

This congregation called me as your pastor, Nate Bendorf as Youth Ministry Director and Amy Thostenson to work in the area of Faith and Family Ministry. We accepted those calls based on knowing what this congregation has stated in its constitutional statement of faith--that "This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life."

We believe Scripture is very clear on the subject of human sexuality—that the appropriate place for sexual intimacy and intercourse is in a marriage between a man and a woman. In the past there was no need to specify that we would teach in that way because, until August 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been in agreement with all other orthodox Christian churches on this issue. The recent decisions to allow the blessing of gay unions and allowing practicing homosexuals to be ordained is a departure from traditional Lutheran theology and teaching. The ELCA has given congregations the difficult task of sorting this issue out on their own.

On January 19, 2010, our church council approved a “Continuing Resolution Regarding Marriage, Gay and Lesbian Persons and Their Families, and Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Response to the Actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.”

As the staff members of this congregation who are primarily responsible for our church’s educational ministry, we will teach children, youth and adults in harmony with that statement.

Specifically, the educational ministry of Evangelical Lutheran Church will teach that the appropriate place for sexual intimacy and intercourse is in a marriage between a man and a woman.


  1. I wonder what it will take for you to realize your statements will send a shockwave of hatred throughout your congregation. Will it take the suicide of a lesbian or gay teenager in your congregation for you to wake up? I certainly hope not.

  2. This Sunday I'm preaching on First Corinthians. Paul's Corinthian correspondence was very "traditional" in its sexual morals while, at the same time, lifting up LOVE as the "greatest." That love demands that we not hate. Those who use the scriptures to HATE others do not have the Spirit of Christ. But, as a pastor sworn to uphold the living and written Word of God, and in a church that considers the Bible to be the authoritative source and norm for faith and life, I believe we have no choice but to lift up heterosexual marriage as the God-blessed context for sexual intercourse. We do NOT preach hated of any kind at our church.

  3. I know I do not really get a vote, but I would have liked your last paragraph to read:

    "Specifically, the educational ministry of Evangelical Lutheran Church will teach that the appropriate place for sexual intimacy and intercourse is in a marriage."

    Since niether our local church nor state recognize a gay marriage, it is not a divisive message coming from you 3 to leave off the end of the sentence. If our state ever chooses to recognize gay marriage, then churches will have to make decisions at that time. Just my 2 cents!

  4. Anony 12:20... unfortunately, your suggestion will most likely fall on deaf ears. These pastors' homophobia obviously runs so deep that they wouldn't even consider your suggestion. They're too busy trying to rationalize their own hatred, and they think that they can try and sugar-coat their message: that all gays will and deserve to burn in hell. This is common among the self-righteous and pharisees.

    Steve insists that he does not "hate" anyone, but Steve has apparently not figured out there is a wide ocean of darkness between intention and reception.

  5. Dear Anonymous 12:20... I wish we could talk personally. None of us gets a vote on this. As I said in a previous comment, the issue has to do with interpretation of God's self-revelation in the Word of God--centered in "God the Son" since creation, revealed in the preaching of Law and Gospel, and recorded in the scriptures. Perhaps the Lutheran tradition is wrong. Lutherans have always argued things out on the basis of scripture. What choice do I have but to look at the statement of faith in our church and make my decisions on the basis of that. Some church traditions are not as fixated on the written word of God as Lutherans are. Women's ordination, the abolition of slavery, the freedom of people to do many things in faith has been argued out on the basis of scripture. Not everyone agrees, but the discussion has been held on that basis. The challenge is, as long as we continue to have a statement of faith that says that the scriptures ARE the source and norm of proclamation faith and life, we need to talk this out on a Bible basis. And, the Bible is clear about the heterosexual design.

  6. This is Anonymous 12:20.
    We have talked. I was hoping that the resolution that was passed by the council last week would have put this to rest for the time being as that resolution seemed like a good compromise. The more that this is talked about and drawn out, the bigger the wedge that is being driven into our church. It may not have been the intention on the outset, but that is what has happened. You may not intend it to be hateful or malintended, but others do mean to be hateful and bigoted and your "transparency" is a rallying cry for them. I do not think anyone expected CELC to call a gay pastor or recognize gay marriage, but there are plenty that are ok with the ELCA giving churches that choice. I guess I am of the belief that if you do not like the direction of the ELCA, leave the ELCA but do not make everyone else go with you. I would not ask the state to cecede from the Union if a president was elected that I did not like. The ELCA gave us a choice and our church council made one that seemed pretty palpable to both sides. I am sorry that you are struggling with this and hope that you can find peace as I do like what you and your family bring to our church. I do hope we stay with the ELCA and you are ok with it, but our church is crumbling right now. You are supposed to be bringing us back together and not driving us apart. I will add that you have not said or done anything to hurt me personally or offended me in any way as I am comfortable agreeing to disagree. I will not be out rallying the troops for any one side. If the church goes in a direction I am not comfortable with, I will go to another one but my preference is to be at CELC with all of our current members.

  7. The book of First Corinthians in the Bible was written to a church that was so conflicted that the members were in court against one another (1 Cor. 6). If you read through that book the Apostle Paul does at least three things: First, he lifts up Jesus crucified for all sinners. Secondly, he champions the truth of God, including as regards sexual morality (1 Cor 6 & 7). Third, he says we must LOVE one another even in the midst of our differences.

    My goal, as a pastor, is to do the same.

    Clearly, there are big concerns felt by many in our congregation, including me, about the recent decisions that have been made in the ELCA. I have been vocal about my concerns regarding the theological liberalism of the wider church. I have not been quiet about where I stand on the issues of the authority of scripture and what the scriptures say about sexuality and God’s intent for marriage and family. BUT I cannot tell the congregation what to do on the issue of denominational affiliation. That is something this congregation has to decide. I have been called to this church to give spiritual leadership and am trying to do that to the best of my ability, knowing full well my own flaws and weaknesses.

    This is honestly, not what I want us as a church to be spending time and energy on. But we have no choice. The ELCA has passed this theological debate on to individual congregations to wrestle with and if we ignore the issues, it will hurt our church in the long run. So, let’s be patient with each other. Let’s talk with others who share differing views. Let’s study scripture and pray for God’s guidance.

    There are many ELCA congregations across the nation who are having the very same struggles we are. Some will choose to remain in the ELCA, some will move their affiliation to another Lutheran group. Our challenge is to really come to grips with what we as Lutheran Christians in this particular congregation believe, what we hold important to teach and preach about, and what we want our witness to be. When we’ve become clear on those things as a congregation, then we will be able to more reasonably make decisions on where we fit into the Lutheran landscape in America.

    The face of Lutheranism in America is changing, whether we like it or not. But is not a decision to rush into. This church family is valuable enough, for us to be careful, thoughtful and prayerful as we continue to live and minister together in the name of Jesus.

    Thank you for your time.

  8. Pastor Steve, Nate and Amy,
    I'm encouraged by your approach of desiring to share Christ's love and Christ's truth as you minister. Keep up the good ministry!

    Rod Quanbeck

  9. Steve, you have a very simple choice. If you cannot accept and abide by the national decisions of the ELCA, then you should resign your position, turn your back on the denomination that ordained you, and go find a denomination that will appease your political beliefs. I'm sure there are plenty of Fundamentalist megachurches that would love to have you spew hatred from their pulpits.

    Several churches left the ELCA in the 1990s due to the denomination's position on abortion. The ELCA survived without them, and the ELCA will survive without you.

    I find it incredibly unfortunate, however, that your particular POLITICAL ideology and hardened heart are so stubborn as to divide your congregation. No wonder why we now have a record number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation.

  10. Anonymous 6:25, wow. Do you really believe what you are writing? Lutherans are never bound to the decisions of their national assemblies as if those assemblies were some kind of infallible pope. If you really believe what you are writing, you do not know me, Lutheranism, nor the ELCA very well. Are you aware that there is a vast spectrum of conviction within the ELCA? And you do NOT know my political stance at all.

  11. This is Anonymous 12:20 again. THose of you that are taking pot shots at Pastor Steve are being as hateful or more so than you are accusing Pastor Steve of being. That is not the way to have an open dialogue and it is not going to help our church in any way. If you have actually had a conversation with Steve you would know that he is struggling with what is the right thing to do. I do not see things the way he sees things as we have different life experiences, but that does not make either one of us hateful or mean spirited toward each other. I have had a couple of lengthy conversations with him and have not found him to be hateful, but definitely torn.

    I would agree with him that there is a biological design to man and woman for the purposes of reproduction. We see it not only in humans, but also in plants and animals. Where I differ with Pastor Steve is that I do not believe that God put everyone or everything on this Earth to reproduce. If his intention was to have everyone reproduce there would not be baren women or infertile men. There would not be genetic defects that allow babies to die shortly after birth if they even made it that far. Reproduction is a miracle that is needed, but if everyone were to reproduce there would be more issues with starvation and overcrowding. God is much smarter than we will ever hope to be. THere is a reason that he lets people be born gay (it is not a choice as no one would chose to be bigoted against and there are animals that are also born gay), but it does not mean that he does not want them to feel loved. God has a plan and has given some of us the ability to procreate and others he did not through several different means.
    My wish is that all people that are loving and kind have a church that makes them feel welcome regardless of their sexual orientation.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. The 11:31 post included slanderous comments and inaccuracies, so I removed it. If anyone would like to see it, please send me an email or give me a call and I will share it with you.

  14. Please contact me directly. Thank you.

  15. Please respond in harmony with Matthew 18:15.

  16. I will be glad to... as soon as you take Matthew 23:13 to heart.

  17. Yes, that is the very painful part about this whole issue. I will study and pray... it may even end up being part of my preaching tomorrow.

  18. Matthew 5:11-12

    11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  19. Dear 4:18 p.m. Saturday, as I read Mt 23:13, I hear you saying that my reading of the scriptures shuts the kingdom of heaven to some people. Is that correct?

  20. What a surprise to observe that the "conservative" folks at your church are the individuals that find "nothing wrong" with the ELCA's decision to ignore the inspired Word of God. What a disappointment to discover that those long-time members who were viewed as leaders of your church are not as they appeared. To them it's more about keeping peace with man than fearing God's spoken word.

    "Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
    " 'These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.']" Matthew 15:6-9

  21. At about 5:13 PM today another anonymous person wrote a comment that begins "What a surprise to observe..." Here's my response: I do moderate comments that come to this blog. Could you rephrase your comment to make it less about other persons and more about the issues at hand? I am concerned, again, that we are forgetting Matthew 18:15 and the need to speak directly and privately to those who offend us.

  22. The problem here is whether or not to rely on our own understanding but upon the divine intellect handed down to us through scripture. 12:20 you clearly are forgetting the teachings of the fall of man. To suggest that God is creating people in a certain state for the purpose of them being persecuted does not follow His pattern of Love. We are all created with a design that is a reflection of God himself in his perfection. The death, overpopulation, birth defects, and infant deaths, cannot be attributed to God while also believing in his complete loving nature. This twisted and abnormal state of our reality (being inclusive of all) is due to our own sin and bad choices. We cannot sluff it off, as that would only be shirking our responsibilities, and becoming content with the reality we live in. We are not perfect, we have many faults that have influenced the world, our relationships with one another, and our perceptions. If we regarded reproduction as God did (along with other factors) and behaved accordingly we would not have disease, barren mothers, infertility, or over population. That much I am quite certain of. Our view on sex itself is a perverted form of what it was truly intended to be. Its true purpose his holy and pure, full of good intentions and good affects on all of humanity.

    However we are supposed to strive for perfection, to bring Jesus Kingdom here to Earth. What Steve is doing is following scripture as he understands it. If you want to refute scripture in hopes of following a higher truth, than you are justified in doing so. But arguing with the the logic and rationality of the world will always be taken with a grain of salt (this is true because we are not perfect and we often fall prey to false or half truths).
    If one claims to interpret and follow scripture in accordance with the ELCA, and the ELCA states "This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." Deductively there is no other conclusion but for the one in question to regard this issue as Pastor Steve does. If you want Steve to revoke his claims and his steadfast belief on sexuality you will first have to convince the ELCA to change their outlook on Biblical text.
    Further discussion then revolves around the role scripture plays, and how we are to understand and apply it.

    Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than Christ."

  23. As I read this blog post and the responses, I can't help but believe that this ongoing argument is doing nothing but divide. I don't have a problem with people debating issues, I think it is very healthy and useful in gaining new understanding. What I do have a big problem with is people anonymously taking pot shots. It is OK to disagree, but the bigger question is how do we reconcile? Pastor Steve and I have not always agreed on everything and I know from experience that he is always willing to meet ANYONE face to face to hash out differences. To the anonymous posters here, meet him face to face and if you cant do that, at least identify yourself to him. Let's keep the conversation open and respectful. Thank you.

  24. 11:33 on Feb 1st,
    This is 12:20.

    I am not saying that he is making them to be persecuted. I am saying that they are being persecuted by man, not him. I do follow what you are saying otherwise and would not wholly disagree with you or with Steve for that matter. Steve knows that as he knows who I am and we have talked and emailed on several topics. He and I are probably more alike than we are different in our thinking. We challenge each other to think.

    My only problem with what you write there, is that if I have a child that dies of a genetic birth defect, it is somehow my fault because of my imperfections? I may have misinterpreted that part, but that is how it came across. If you are saying it is because my sins, than you are just cruel. No one deserves to lose a child due to something that was wrong at the moment of conception or for any other reason for that matter. Or are you saying it is because of the populations' sins? Even that would be tough to swallow, but not as cruel to an individual.

  25. 12:20 - jesus pretty much put to an end to the idea that individual sin causes bad things to happen to us... see John 9:1ff and Luke 13:1ff

  26. Thanks for the verses Steve.


  27. I am glad to see Pastor Steve stick up for what he was taught by Gods Word. For this is how I was taught. Why do some think its okay to change the scriptures in the bible to meet todays lifestyles. I have young children growing up and even though I do not hate or dislike homesexuals. I don't want my children to be influnced by that type of lifestyle. I dont think that there is a parent out there that wishes their children to be homosexual. If they choose that road I will love them the same, but I don't want anyone or any church to influnce them that this is normal. When we do wrong we look to Jesus and the Bible for forgiveness. How can you be okay with someone changing that. Its what you have believed your whole life. I don't think it is right for the ELCA to change or to alter the scriptures just to meet todays lifestyle. For those that support the ELCA, I don't understand the ground you stand on, for we didn't change as a congergation for what we believe. The ELCA changed and now our church will suffer. I know I speak for many parents my age with kids. Our church needs us and our children to survive. If I and others leave the church we will be able to find a church that doesn't see homosexuality as another normal way of life. If the church leaves the ELCA and some of you that support them leave. You would have a tough time finding another church in the surrounding area that supports homosexuality. If in 10 or 15 years from now, because of high divorce rate, people are not getting married, but are living together. And maybe with more than just one person. Should the ELCA change their believes on marriage. I don't think so!! GOD has written out the scriptures and we need them to support us in the sinful life we all lead. For those of you giving Pastor Steve a hard time, give it a break. He's only preaching the scriptures. He shouldn't have to tippy-toe around so he doesn't offend you with the Word of the Lord. Amen

  28. It's important to remember that none of us has a perfect understanding of God's Word. We need to be bold enough to say where we stand and, a the same time, be humble enough to listen to those who disagree. This blog is a forum for that. Hopefully we can be kind and patient with one another in the process.

  29. John 1:1

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    Matt 28:19-20

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

    2 Tim 1:7-8

    For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord...

    Matt 10:32-40

    "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

    "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
    " 'a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
    a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

    "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

    2 Chronicles 24:17-19

    After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God's anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen.

  30. To whoever posted at 10:27 last night: For the sake of those who are reading this blog, could you please comment again and make clear how those verses apply to the issue of sexuality? It may seem obvious and simple to you, but to others it is not. Thank you.

  31. I guess I didn't necessarily mean for them to apply specifically to the issue of sexuality. Aspects of what people posted made some of these verses come to mind as I read the comments, and I thought I would share them.

    I refrained from adding further editorial as it seems to me there has been a little too much of that in the ELCA and not enough of just letting God's Word speak for itself.

    I suppose if you think it's important, I can bring up a few of the reasons these verses came to mind, but I'm perfectly fine leaving it up to God to work in people's hearts.

  32. Anonymous 10:27 Thank you for sharing these verses.. The New ELCA is headed down a different path then the ALC church I joined 25 years ago. I will not be following the New ELCA.