Reprinted with permission from the Anglican Journal
The Anglican Church of Canada’s full communion partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (ELCIC), will discuss at its convention this summer a set of recommendations on gender and sexuality including one asking that it discern a position on polyamory, the Anglican Journal has learned.
The recommendations come from the ELCIC task force on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, formed after the Lutherans’ national meeting in 2019 commissioned groups to work on diversity, equity and inclusion for issues of gender and sexuality, racism and ableism. The task force presented its first version in a report at ELCIC’s 2022 National Convention, with an updated version on the table for discussion this summer.
Trina Gallop Blank, ELCIC director of communications, shared the list of recommendations with the Journal. It calls on the ELCIC to promote a healthy understanding of sexuality and consent; review church policies for “language and other systemic problems that might cause harm or inequity to 2SLGBTQIA+” people; increase its visibility as an affirming church by participating in local Pride parades; encourage ELCIC members to specify and acknowledge pronouns wherever they identify themselves or others; make a public apology and, possibly, pay reparations to 2SLGBTQIA+ people who have been harmed by the church; and train its staff on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other things. The list concludes with a statement that the church should create resources to “support listening, safe conversations, and discernment at all levels of the church around healthy, consensual relationships, including ethical non-monogamous relationships.”
The newer version contains many of the same recommendations as the draft submitted in 2022. However, where the current version suggests conversations and discernment around non-monogamous relationships, last year’s included three recommended changes to the church’s treatment of marriage. These state that the church should “review and revise the definition and understanding of ‘marriage’ in the Social Statement on Human Sexuality and the church’s disciplinary policy for rostered ministers to include polyamorous and ethically non-monogamous understandings of marriage.”
Approved in 2011, the ELCIC’s Social Statement on Human Sexuality lays out what it sees as the cultural realities surrounding marriage, family and sexuality and the church’s own position on these things, in places acknowledging conflicting views in the church on same-sex marriage. The task force’s recommendations do not go into detail on exactly which parts of the document would be changed to include ideas about non-monogamous marriage.
The task force’s earlier report also proposes that the church suspend any current or future decisions to discipline its pastors or deacons on the grounds that they have breached sections D or E of its guidelines on the discipline of rostered ministers. These sections deal with expectations for their conduct in family, marriage and sexual matters.
The Rev. Steve Hoffard, co-chair of the task force, told the Journal that having had a year to think over the recommendations, the group had decided it would be better to simply start a conversation about non-monogamy rather than outline specific changes on a topic which may be unfamiliar to many at the gathering.
ELCIC court upheld appeal by disciplined polyamorous pastor
In February, Susan Johnson, national bishop of the ELCIC, issued a pastoral letter announcing that an ELCIC court had upheld an appeal on one such case. A member of the clergy, who is not named in the letter or the summary of the decision, had been suspended from the roster of pastors for being involved in what Johnson in her letter called “a self-defined polyamorous relationship.”
“The issues raised in this particular conflict may now become a matter of consideration for the whole church,” Johnson wrote. “So, we pray that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us. As we prepare for any discussions on the issues involved, let us be patient and gentle with each other, speaking the truth in love.”
While this summer’s convention will be held as part of the Anglican-Lutheran Assembly 2023, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Journal the discussion of these recommendations will not be a joint session with the Anglican Church of Canada. Nor has the topic of polyamory been raised in the Anglican Church to her knowledge, she said in an email.