Our Heart Behind the Statement Paper

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” ―C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
I sit alone in my office after an emotional and heartbreaking conversation with a mother watching her daughter, in the midst of an identity crisis, make decisions that cannot be easily undone. And then, as if I am having deja vu, I am transported to a previous conversation with a father. I didn’t know him well, but I was a safe person with whom he could bare his soul and express his heartache over his son’s struggle with Gender Dysphoria and subsequent irreversible medical intervention. There is a cloud that hangs in my office, a certain density to the air that doesn’t leave when the hurting person walks out, that not even our time of prayer calling upon the Lord for his help and care can drive away. Those conversations leave a mark on your soul, even when you don’t know the person at the center.

When in my work as a pastor I have yet another conversation with a parent or grandparent struggling to help their child through the complex, multi-layered maze of human identity and sexuality in our modern world, I find a sense of anger welling up inside my heart. This anger isn’t directed at any individual questioning their identity, but instead at the sin and brokenness that grips our world. Since the beginning of time, humanity has managed to take the brilliant creation of human identity, expressed as both female and male, and the inestimable gift of sexuality, and make it all into something that bears almost no resemblance to God’s good plan and purpose. How are our children, breathing in the polluted air that is inescapable in our world, to live faithfully to God’s Word and good plan? It seems that so many things are stacked against them.

In contrast to the beauty of God’s original design in Genesis 1, it is easy to feel anger on some level. But, of course, anger in my heart won’t help in any measurable or meaningful way. In fact, on a macro level, there isn’t much that we as individuals can do to change our culture. We can, however, do what God has called us to do. We can, within our individual families, churches, neighborhoods, and vocations, join Jesus in his disciple-making mission.

Several years ago the Theological Council of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren began discussing the need to provide a teaching and discipling resource with clear language that spoke to the questions being asked in our families, churches, and communities. Those discussions resulted in the creation of a committee that wrote a draft position paper titled, “Statement on Human Persons and Sexuality.”

Once the initial committee presented its work to the Theological Council, there was additional work done by both an editorial committee and by the Council as a whole. We then presented the paper to the Church at our Biennial Convention in 2022 for feedback and discussion. Following the panel presentation, we received verbal and/or written feedback from over 25 people. Every comment was considered by a committee, with a recommendation to the full Council. We also received feedback and suggestions from a handful of individuals with personal experience in the matters of human identity and sexuality to which the Statement speaks. After further discussion, amendment, and editing, the Theological Council presented a revised paper to the Council of Directors. That brings us to the current document that the Church will consider for adoption at BC24.

Those of us who have had a hand in the paper are not only processing it as committee members, but also as pastors, parents, neighbors, and friends. We recognize that the words of a paper like this aren’t written into an ideological vacuum, but rather into a complicated, nuanced world replete with feelings, opinions, and lived experiences. As you and I read the paper, we do so with certain people in mind―people we love deeply.

As the paper entered the editorial phase, our editorial committee placed a strong emphasis on two things: First, that the paper just say what God’s Word says, with only enough additional commentary to make clear what is being said. And second, that the tone be such that it doesn’t create unnecessary conflict―recognizing that the subject matter could certainly be taken offensively. In other words, clearly declaring “thus saith the Lord,” while doing so in a helpful and engaging way. Maintaining that balance is a challenging task.

The Theological Council is strongly aware that this paper is the beginning of our work on the topic, not the end. The CLB needs a clear foundation from which we can develop further resources to help families and churches.

While I can’t speak for all involved in the paper’s journey, there are three words that have helped me as I have engaged in my portion of the work. It was a priority for me that the paper be human, pastoral, and redemptive.

This is not just a paper about sexuality or sexual sin, but about issues that are central to what it means to be human. Additionally, the paper will be read by humans who are engaged in relationships with other humans struggling to understand who they are in this messy world. This is not just a theoretical paper.

The lies about human identity, personhood, and sexuality that permeate our culture are, as C.S. Lewis so beautifully expressed, making people “without chests and expect[ing] of them virtue and enterprise.” To throw people into confusion about basic human identity (including gender and sexual confusion) is to rip from within them that which allows them to be who they actually are. And that demands a very human, compassionate, and loving response.

The paper is not a cold statement, but a clear starting point from which families, churches, and neighborhood missionaries can engage in the mission to which they are called―pointing people to Jesus and his cross as the source of their identity and salvation.

What does “being pastoral” look like? At his best, a pastor is diligently engaged in feeding, nurturing, caring for, and protecting his flock. To be pastoral is to have a balanced concern for both care and correction, protection and discipline.

In a culture in which the modus operandi of public discourse is just to yell louder and be more insulting than the opponent, we want a paper and related resources to be thoroughly pastoral―not avoiding the difficult things, but declaring truth with love and care for hurting and struggling people.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
―Colossians 1:13-14

As recipients of lavish grace, our greatest desire is for all who live in darkness, separate from God, to be rescued and redeemed. This has been a hallmark of our movement since the beginning. We don’t exist for ourselves, but that the lost might be found. Every resource, statement, and paper must flow from our DNA as a Disciple-making Church. All that we say and do flows from our longing for all to know of God’s great love in Jesus Christ.

It’s my prayer, great hope, and expectation that the Church of the Lutheran Brethren will benefit from this paper. We are grateful to the Lord for all who have labored to bring it to its current form and ask that he would bless that work―that we would be better equipped to take the good news of salvation in Christ to lost people in our neighborhoods and communities, and make disciples in our families, churches, neighborhoods, and vocations.

“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”   
―1 Thessalonians 5:24
Pastor Scott Skones is the pastor of Living Word Fellowship in Dickinson, North Dakota. Scott also serves on the committee for the “Statement on Human Persons and Sexuality.”
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