Monday, August 13, 2007

Restraint, Discipline, and Chastity

A friend and colleague, who happens to be an out ELCA minister, sent me the final text of the resolution that passed the General Assembly by 100 votes this weekend.

It reads:

Resolution passed on August 11th:

RESOLVED, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members, the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship;

and be it further RESOLVED, that the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.

She writes that this was a stopgap measure as the church debates its "final policy" on these matters. Commenters on Sunday's blog offer their own viewpoint about what happened, and I hope you'll take the time to read them.

For now, can someone tell me what "chaste" means in an adult, mutual, committed relationship, and are heterosexual ministers held to this same standard? Does it mean a relationship with no sexual contact -- or just one where you don't get too excited by it? Either way, it seems like too much to ask of adult partners.


Christine Robinson said...

I think it is a way of saying "no adultery", to people who might assume that this word, like "marriage" has too many heterosexual connotations.

jules said...

You know... that raised an eyebrow with me, too (the use of the word "chaste") so I did a quick look up on it and it seemed... well, still odd.
I like entry number 6 of the seven definitions though.
To this particular definition I would hope all loving couples would aspire... same sex as well as hetero.

chaste – 6. pure in style; not excessively ornamented; simple.

UU Deist in Texas

Robin Edgar said...

Was "stopgay" a typo, a Freudian slip, or an intentional misspelling of "stopgap"?

Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells) said...

Stopgay? or stopgap!

Scott Prinster said...

She writes that this was a stopgay measure...

I'm guessing that this was supposed to be "stopgap," but it's a pretty good Freudian slip, don't you think?

With regard to "chaste," I'm suspecting that it really means a relationship that doesn't trigger the "ick" factor for heterosexuals. Perhaps I'm just feeling cynical about the ever-present double standard.

Debra W. Haffner said...

It was a typo...I fixed it...(Maybe it also was a Freudian slip...)

And Jules, as a sexologist, I'm not sure that "pure in style" and "simple" is a goal for sex in longterm partnerships; after anger, the second reason that marriages get into sexual problems is boredom.

Tom Richie said...

Could "chaste" in this context mean that the General Assembly does not want same sex partners to be too obvious about it?? No public shows, like holding hands, casual touching, or public declarations of their love for their partners?? Like the "ick" factor referred to above. I admit that I am not familiar with ELCA congregations, but I would bet that heterosexual ministers are not held to that standard.

On a somewhat different note; when I first read Debra's post, early this morning before I had my glasses on, I remember squinting at that word for a moment and concluding that it did, indeed, say "stopgay." I thought to myself "alright," before moving on to the morning headlines and my email. A few minutes ago, when I came back and reread the post, before I got down to Debra's comment, I was the tiniest bit disappointed that I had, after all, misread the word. The political comment would have been ok with me.

Anonymous said...

In the Catholic faith, marital chastity has nothing to do with not getting overly excited with your spouse. It means being monogamous and respectful of your spouse's dignity WTIHIN your own sexual relationship...not "using" your spouse as a sexual object for your own sexual gratification (which is different from not "enjoying" sex with your spouse). It implies faithfulness, and self-giving love (as I understand it - I am no theologian, but as a natural family planning instructor, I have some experience trying to explain about marital chastity - and it doesn't have to do with not having any fun with your spouse.)

The fact that the word "chaste" bothers sexual progressives suggests to me that you guys need to spend more time opening your minds and listening to the work of some of the chastity educators that you sometimes demonize. You might violently disagree with much of what they say, but some of it could be applicable to what you are trying to do.

"Chastity" (by these educators) is distinguised from "abstinence" by virtue of its being something positive not negative. Abstinence would be not having sex. Chastity is having morally appropriate sex (probably under your rules according to the guidelines you set out in your Open Letter - things like non-exploitative, by mutual consent, Catholic teaching, these things would not alone make sex moral, but they would all be part of a chaste relationahip.)

A "chaste" sexual relationship (among married people anyway), would be a very sexually exciting one. It's just that it would respect the inherent human dignity of both of the partners and the moral limitations placed upon it by the moral system (in Catholicism, Church teaching) that the partners have assented to.

Catholic couples who engage in "marital chastity" can still have great sex. (My co-blogger Greg Popcak just wrote a new book laying out this proposition - it's not out yet but the chapter in his marriage book for Catholics (which encourages "toe-curling" great sex lives for married Catholics in all stages of life") is called "Holy Sex, Batman!".

Of course, by Catholic standards chastity by unmarried people requires abstinence, but the term "chastity" itself doesn't imply it. Chastity implies morally legitimate sex that respects both partners' dignity. Maybe this is the distinction these clergy are trying to make. It sounds to me as though they are asking for these clergy members to be monogamous and have diginified relationships with their partners.
Just my guess...

Debra W. Haffner said...

Here's one Lutheran minister's post to me, printed here with permission...and simple? no, not really...

"Lutheran" use and understanding of chaste probably comes from the translation of Luther's small catechism explanation of the meaning of the 6th commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery: "We should fear and love God so that we lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, and that husband and wife love and honor each other." I've always translated that to mean "No hanky panky between spouses" Simple enough ?

Anonymous said...

"Chaste" means faithful to one partner. It is not against ELCA policy for a pastor to be homosexual in his or her self-understanding. What they cannot do is be in an active sexual relationship. What the assembly did was encourage bishops not to "discipline" those pastors.