Having heard much of the plenary debates and read hundreds of blogs and Twitter posts, I've come to the conclusion that this Assembly has very little to do with SEX and everything to do with SCRIPTURE...or, more specifically, the authority of Scripture.
Based on what I've heard and read, the Lutherans seem to find themselves in one of three groups:
Group #1 - Scripture Says No
There are many who are wanting to elevate the authority of Scripture within the Lutheran tradition. These folks feel that Scripture is clear that God doesn't agree with homosexuality. They argue there is no Scriptural basis for allowing openly gay people in committed, monogamous relationships to serve as pastors. Not only is Scripture clear on this issue, but these verses are and should be the primary place we look for guidance.
Group # 2 - Scripture Says Yes
Folks in this group believe that the whole of Scripture focuses on a God that forgives and redeems sinners and the ways in which they turn against God. They reference stories where Jesus seeks out the outcast, unclean, un-religious crowd and shows them grace and love. These people talk about the "old law" being thrown out with the "new law" of love of neighbor. They argue that it's not our place to judge what might or might not be a sin.
Group #3 - Scripture Isn't the Only Authority
This group lives in the tension. They believe that Scripture is filled with laws - some that we adhere to and some that we dismiss. They tend to look at the specific "homosexual" verses as well as the stories about Jesus equipping broken sinners with gifts for ministry. In addition, people in this group believe that Scripture is one of several voices that should be considered in debates. Church history, personal experience, and the individual & corporate discernment of the Holy Spirit are all equally important factors for this group. People in this group appear to be genuinely conflicted on the sexuality social statement & ministry policy resolutions, but tend to be in favor of their passage.
From my perspective, the group that is "most Lutheran" is #3. Lutherans believe that Scripture is inspired by God and functions as the "source and norm" for our spiritual lives. Scripture is instructive and faith-formative. It does not, however, stand alone as authoritative. Luther indicated that three things - grace, faith and Scripture - provide guidance and wisdom to the church. All three "solas" are gifts of God that carry equal weight and importance.
(Note: some reformers had 5 solas...and Wesley had his quadrilateral. All were formed under a similar premise that Scripture was important within the context of other aspects of a life of Christian faith.)
The Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust social statement passed by the narrowest of margins - exactly 2/3. As many as 3% of voters didn't cast a vote (for whatever reason). The four recommendations on ministry policies only require a 50% + 1 vote. It appears to some that the passage of these recommendations on Friday is a foregone conclusion. Still questions remain...
- What is God's will for our church?
- What role does Scripture play in our discernment?
- How will the other 4.599 million Lutherans who aren't gathered in Assembly respond to social statement and ministry policies?