"If steps one and two are accepted, step three asks the assembly to commit to implementing steps one and two "in such a way that all this church bear the burdens of the other, love the
neighbor, and respect the bound conscience of any with whom they disagree." According to the report, "decisions about policy that serve only the interests of one or another group will not be acceptable."
Step four presents a proposal for how the ELCA could move toward change "in a way that respects the bound conscience of all," said the report. The fourth step is different from the previous steps in that it is "not simply a commitment in principle, but makes a specific recommendation for flexibility within existing structures and practices of this church to allow for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-
gender relationships to be approved" for professional service in the ELCA, stated the report.
I often find it useful to compare the philosophical underpinings of contemporary, "unsettled" issues to the "settled" ones of yore. Mentioning "Hitler" is probably still too incendiary in this day and age, so I look at the issue of slavery.
The issue of a change in sexual ethics could have been taken two ways. One, they could have taken up an issue of "personhood"-- and stated that God requires us to change our ways and accept all persons as fully part of God's table. Perhaps some pretty effective law and gospel appeals could have come from that. But you might have to call out folks as being "sinners", even if you meant the prejudiced ones. In so doing, they would have been purely in the philosophical tradition of the abolitionists and civil rights advocates.
Another tack, the one taken here, is the honoring the "bound conscience"s of all. I'm hearing that the Recommendation takes on a philosophical underpining of affirming every one's conscience. And in so doing, it took on hook, line, and sinker, the argument of the slaveholders, who wanted a local option. The holders wanted everyone to "I trust people.". In the words of Scrooge, "I wish to be left alone." I'll say that politically, and spirituallly, this philosophy is an anathema to me. It's not the philosophy I read in the confessions or a Theology of the Cross or of all the great "busybodies" in the history of the church triumphant, with folks like Bonhoeffer and Dr. King coming to mind.