From Gregg Kaufman - In a 2015 blog post, I asserted that faith communities care deeply about many of the same issues reflected by the National Issues Forums Institute publications. Many religious organizations address issues such as immigration, economic disparity, health care, and criminal justice among other issues and create “teaching documents” to help local faith communities discuss the issues. Human sexuality and particularly issues around same-sex union is a subject that NIFI has not broached; however, this issue has and continues to be discussed in many faith communities. Some religious organizations have approved unions while others remain opposed. Still other religious groups recognize leaders and members’ “bound conscience convictions” that either support or preclude support for same-sex marriage thereby providing flexibility. Faith communities reflect the spectrum of conservative to liberal perspectives. What is undeniable is that Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious communities struggle with how to reconcile their theological perspectives with the 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling supporting same-sex marriage.
In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly approved a social statement entitled Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust social statement and church policies that provide for ordaining gay persons and supporting same-sex unions. Subsequently, church leaders and congregations in opposition to the action began to disassociate from the denomination while other congregations supported the policies. To say that the social statement created confusion and controversy in the denomination is an understatement. In 2013 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to create a study group to help congregations respond to the social statement. One of the group’s recommendations called for a “conversation series” to help congregations discuss the issue. This recommendation offered the opportunity to introduce the deliberative dialogue process as a vehicle for congregational discourse.
Very recently two resources were approved and published on the ELCA website. A Guide for Talking Together about Shared Ministry with Same-Sex Couples and Their Families and Leaders Guide To A Guide for Talking Together about Shared Ministry with Same-Sex Couples and Their Families. These resources could be adapted for other religious organizations use by referencing relevant statements or policies.