Dear Partners in Mission,
This past week, many of us from the Indiana-Kentucky Synod have gathered with other Lutherans from around the nation at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly under the theme: "God's Work. Our Hands." We have gathered around Word and Sacrament, participated in Bible studies, heard reports, prayed, made decisions, and enjoyed fellowship in Christ.
In addition, we have committed ourselves to fight against world hunger and HIV/AIDS, fight malaria in South-Saharan Africa and we approved a full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church.
The Spirit has truly been present.
As part of this assembly, after eight years of study and dialogue, we approved the social statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust." Along with this statement we considered ministry policy changes that would allow persons in life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships to be called and commissioned, consecrated or ordained for ministry in the church.
After prayerful, respectful and Spirit-led discussion we voted to begin a process for the calling and commissioning, consecrating or ordaining of such persons, which was a painful but courageous step. For some, this decision has even raised questions about their relationship with the church. What gives me hope is that we committed ourselves "to bear one another's burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all."
Much work remains for us as we discern how to move forward together. For example, specific policies and procedures related to candidacy and call are yet to be developed. In our synod we also hope to provide opportunities for conversations with one another about the impact of these decisions on us as individuals and as local and interconnected communities of faith. Along the way we will be careful to honor one another's biblical, theological, and confessional commitments and no person or congregation will be forced to act contrary to their bound conscience.
The 17 voting members, synod staff and visitors of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod have worked faithfully to represent you at this assembly. I am thankful for their thoughtful and careful attention to all the matters before the church and for their openness to the leading of the Spirit.
I am grateful for your prayers and leadership in the church. We must continue to pray for one another, for the leadership of the ELCA, and for the whole church as we endeavor to reflect the love of God, make Christ known and be the hands and voice of God in the world. Please continue to keep us and one another in your prayers as we pray for you this weekend when you gather with God's people around Word and Sacrament.
In his report early in the assembly, Bishop Mark Hanson reminded us of the source of our unity and center for mission: "We meet one another finally, not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross -- where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ." May God grant us faith to live into this vital truth and fill us with the power to walk humbly and compassionately alongside one another marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with God's Spirit forever.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Jim Stuck