Dear Churchwide: by Chelsea Achterberg

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Dear Churchwide, 
2022 will be my second time attending Churchwide Assembly. In 2019 I was the young adult voter for my home synod. I left Milwaukee aching that we did not discuss, yet alone vote on, an update for the Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust social statement. When I had a chance to serve again as a voter for 2022 in my new synod, it felt like a chance to finish the work. This year, a memorial to update the social statement has been removed from en bloc and will be considered by the assembly. Many, or maybe even most, of you reading this have strong feelings about the document as it is and about how it should be. Like many of you, it is personal to me.
In 2016, my wife Mandy and I were preparing to draft our Roster Ministers Profiles (RMPs) our senior year of seminary. We quizzed bishops who came to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary about what we should select, married or publicly accountable lifelong monogamous relationship (PALMS). Of course, two bishops gave two opposite answers, both with sound reasons. One said, you should put PALMS. That makes clear you are in a same-sex relationship. It’s more honest and doesn’t look like you’re hiding anything. The documents of the church, the social statement and the now removed Vision and Expectations, still define marriage as between a man and a woman. Another said, are you legally married? Yes, we were legally married with a state issued license by an ELCA pastor in an ELCA seminary chapel. Then you are married and you should select married. The problem of course was that both were correct and both reflected legitimate views within our church.
That paperwork and plenty of others have changed since then. PALMS has been removed and non-gendered options have been added. Non-gendered titles for this assembly brought me great joy. It’s easy to change paperwork. Paperwork, especially RMPs, are only seen by a tiny number of people every year. Paperwork must be informed by policy and policy change is much harder. Policy is a public face of what we believe and discussing it opens us anew to scrutiny.
Since well before the Human Sexuality social statement, the policies of this church and all our predecessor bodies, have left some with privilege and some with the table scraps. We will not fix all of those at this assembly. But we might spend the rest of our collective days moving us closer to the mutuality we see in our triune God. My prayer is that this Churchwide Assembly will approve a reconsideration to revise the social statement not only in better accordance with our laws and our understanding, but in celebration of the great diversity of ways we glimpse the vastness of God through the diversity of people in God’s good creation.

Chelsea Achterberg(she/they) serves as pastor at  All Saints Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO and as a US Army Reserve Chaplain. While usually a solo runner, Chelsea is looking forward to running her first multi-stage relay race with a team other pastors this fall. She and her wife, Mandy have enjoyed the great community of Proclaimers they have found in Denver. 

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