Svenska kyrkan svarer Mekane Yesus-kirken

På min blogg, 05.06.2011, gjengir jeg et brev (skrevet 24.12.2010) fra Mekane Yesus-kirken (EECMY) i Etiopia til Svenska kyrkan. I dette brevet maner EECMYs president til metanoia (omvendelse) i homofilispørsmålet. Nå etter mer enn et halvt år kommer svenskenes svar. Erkebiskop Wejryds svar er alt annet enn imponerende, ihvertfall hva teologi angår. Jeg gjengir brevet her.
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Foto: Erkebiskop Anders Wejryd

Uppsala June 7, 2011.

Revd Dr Wakseyoum Idosa
President
Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia

Dear Revd Dr Wakseyoum Idosa,
Greetings in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
First, I would like to thank you for your pastoral letter dated 24th December 2010 on the question of the decisions by the Church of Sweden (CoS) on same-sex relationships. It is in indeed an important letter and we appreciate that it is written in all sincerity and seriousness.

As your letter states, the relationship between the CoS and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) is a long-standing one and we are grateful to God that we have been able to cooperate in the holistic mission of God in your country, and to learn much from our work together since the first contacts with indigenous evangelists in the second part of the nineteenth century. The experiences of the missionaries of the Swedish Evangelical Mission first in Eritrea and then in Ethiopia inspired much of the later missionary engagement of the CoS as a whole. The confession of faith under threat of death by Ethiopian martyrs like the late Revd Gudina Tumsa in connection with the persecution of Christians during the communist revolution has impressed us. Moreover, the CoS considers the letter from the EECMY to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) at the beginning of 1970’s on the interrelation between proclamation of the Gospel and human development as one of the most valuable documents in the history of the LWF in establishing a healthy and mutual partnership where the Gospel is preached both by witness in words and through diaconal work. We further appreciate the fact that you recall the significance of the committed efforts of Swedish missionaries in the history of the EECMY. You write even that the extraordinary flourishing of the Gospel in Ethiopia today through the work of your church is partly a fruit of their labour. We give thanks to God that this is the case. We note also the expression of your firm belief that such mission initiative has to continue in the future. We do hope that it will be possible for us to continue to relate to each other and cooperate on holistic missionary initiatives, as understood in the Standard Partnership Agreement (SPA) between our churches. We need our mutual encounters both in our bilateral relationship and within the communion of the LWF.

Our church partnership is understood to be based on biblical faith and Lutheran identity. This was the conviction of the forefathers in both our churches. Today this should still be our conviction, but the present issue indicates that we understand in different ways how we can be faithful to biblical faith and Lutheran identity at this time and in our respective contexts. That we have diverged in this way has gradually become evident during the years that the process leading to the latest decision of the CoS on marriage and sexuality has been going on. The EECMY has clearly declared its position on these matters (letter of 11th January 2007) in reaction to the introduction by CoS in December 2006 of a rite of blessing for registered homosexual partnerships. The quotation on marriage from the Core Values (CV) of the EECMY (approved in January 2005) which you cite makes your position on marriage as a union between a man and a woman once again quite clear (CV a.4.). Since then there have been subsequent discussions on the consequences of the difference of opinion for our work together.

The CoS has taken such points of view as yours seriously and we are aware of the ecumenical dimensions of our decisions. Our aim has been to be open about the process and provide information, in line with various ecumenical agreements, for instance in the SPA (4.2.3., 5.3.). We realize that some think that not enough has been done and that greater involvement of partners in the actual process has been expected. However, it would have been difficult both in principle and on formal grounds for there to be direct involvement by partners in the process of decision-making. This also reveals an as yet unresolved problematic with discernment and decision-making in fellowships between churches which is becoming increasingly evident in many ecumenical contexts. We have no intention of trying to push our interpretation on other churches.
The CoS and the EECMY have in fact been unable to reach agreement on the substantive issue of how to view homosexual relationships. It is amongst other things an expression of different cultural contexts. The existence of different cultures, visions and strategies is recognized in the SPA (3.5.). The significance of this variety even within the EECMY is stated in CV (a.3., d.2.), where it is also pointed out that “cultures are not static but dynamic” (a.4.). The CoS is for instance a majority church to which a large proportion of the population at least nominally belongs. Homosexuals and their place in society, which has changed over recent years, is therefore not just a phenomenon external to the church but is part of the life of our congregations, members and clergy. Reactions against irresponsible and unfaithful sexuality, a commodification of human sexuality, not being linked to life-long unions, have been behind our decisions As you indicate, it is moreover a question of different hermeneutic approaches. Both our churches have for well-grounded hermeneutical reasons changed their positions on other important matters, for instance on women and the ministry. Over history other examples can be brought up from different churches. There is also the question of how much diversity can be accepted in a fellowship between churches. Our hope and sincere prayer is that we would be able to consider each other as parts of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-27), and continue to support each other in our work to spread the Gospel, despite having different views on the subject at hand.
It should be understood that our decision was taken after much listening, reflection on the Bible, theological discussion and prayer. For the CoS this is a way of being faithful to the Gospel today. The decision was carried by a more than two thirds majority at the synod in 2009 – to the great joy of many. Although there is disagreement within the CoS, it is possible for different views to coexist in a spirit of diversity without it necessarily having to lead to separation. It should be noted that the CoS is not unique in taking decisions on this question either in Sweden or in a wider context. A Baptist congregation in Sweden was for instance ahead of us on this. Some other Lutheran churches, and also e.g. Presbytarian, Baptist and Anglican, are taking similar measures and many are in processes of discernment on how to relate to their homosexual members. We would greatly value being able to continue to reflect on these issues together with our partners, both bilaterally and in the LWF. Since you have particularly identified the question of hermeneutics, we think it could be fruitful for us to meet at a mutual consultation to pray and reflect on our understandings of the authority of the Bible in today’s world. The CoS would be willing to host such a meeting to which the EECMY would be very welcome to send participants or to take part and, if you so want, support such a meeting or consultation in Ethiopia.

With reference to the resolutions of the 6th Council of the EECMY (1st - 6th July 2010) communicated in your letter we claim that we are trying to abide by the authority of the Bible. There is furthermore no formal possibility of revisiting the decision on same-sex marriage during the year of waiting you propose and prior to your 7th Council this summer. The decision on same-sex marriage was in fact confirmed by the synod of 2010 in response to a motion to repeal it.

We take seriously your appeal for metanoia, but mean that every church and its individual members need continuously to seek repentance for many things. We are also grateful for your promise of prayers for the CoS, hoping that they will be offered for the mission to bring the Gospel to the people of Sweden. We will also continue to pray for the EECMY and its mission to the people of Ethiopia, on which we would like to continue to cooperate in the future.

With prayers for God’s blessing on the life and work of both our churches, I remain yours sincerely in Christ,

Anders Wejryd
Most Revd Dr, Archbishop of Uppsala
Church of Sweden

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jo 17:20-21)

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