Chilstrom, Bishop Herbert W., Human Sexuality Correspondence
Span Dates: 1991-1995
Volume: 2.8 cubic ft.
These files contain correspondence from Evalngelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) lay people and pastors regarding the ELCA's draft statement on Human Sexuality. Attached to each letter received by the bishop's office is a copy of the office response. The response from the bishop's office to the correspondent was usually a form letter simply acknowledging receipt of the person's letter. Copies of the various form letters used are located in the file "Responses from Office of the Bishop, Form Letters and Address Lists." A copy of the original letter received was then sent to DCS. Sometimes more personal responses were sent to representatives of larger organizations, such as the World Mission Prayer League, as well as to individual ELCA pastors. Letters received from ELCA parishioners were usually in response to newspaper articles regarding the draft statement. Many people attached clippings from their local newspapers regarding the draft to their letters.
Files are arranged into correspondence regarding the different drafts of the statement. The first is responses to The Church and Human Sexuality: a Lutheran Perspective; second, Human Sexuality and the Christian Faith; and third, Human Sexuality, Working Draft. Files are arranged alphabetically within these groupings.
The first group of correspondence, regarding "The Church and Human Sexuality: a Lutheran Perspective," is from individuals and is arranged by the last name of the correspondent. There is also "Group Correspondence," or correspondence received from entire congregations or organizations. The "Enclosures" file gives an excellent background of the beginnings of the study and those who participated in the task force. It also includes a copy of the statement. Other groupings of correspondence include anonymous correspondence, correspondence with bishops, the Church Council, college and seminary administration and faculty, and with Task Force members. Also included are responses to the "Church and Human Sexuality" study predecessor, "Human Sexuality and the Christian Faith," published in 1992, and the second draft of the "Church and Human Sexuality" paper, "Human Sexuality, Working Draft," published in October 1994. [This statement is copied from the finding aid to the collection.]
This correspondence was generated largely in response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) draft social statement, "The Church and Human Sexuality: a Lutheran Perspective." The Division for Church in Society (DCS) drafted the statement and sent it to ELCA pastors and other church leaders in October 1993. However, before ELCA pastors received their copies of the draft statement, it was released to the press. Therefore, many ELCA members and pastors first heard about the study through the newspaper, particularly one Associated Press article (copies of which are attached to several letters written to Bishop Chilstrom). Many church members were upset with the statement, believing it to be ELCA policy, rather than a draft of a statement. ELCA pastors were left to field questions regarding the statement without even having received it themselves. Many pastors were upset that they were not informed of the release of the statement and were unprepared to deal with their parishioners' reactions.
The second draft of the statement, presented to the churchwide assembly in 1995, took these responses of ELCA pastors into account. The second draft, "Human Sexuality, Working Draft: a Possible Social Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with Accompanying Documents," was released in October 1994. The study was presented to the Churchwide Assembly in 1995, but a decision on the sexuality study was postponed until the 1997 Assembly.
An excellent online finding aid can be seen by searching the ELCA archives online catalog for Chilstrom and expanding the link to the collection.
The collection is part of the ELCA official archives, Office of the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Chilstrom at the ELCA archives in Elgin, IL.
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