A four-year effort by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to write a statement on human sexuality has nearly foundered since reports of a first draft alarmed members of the 5.2 million-member denomination.
"The proposed statement as written is mortally wounded," the Rev. Edgar R. Trexler wrote in the current issue of The Lutheran, the church's monthly magazine, which he edits.
On Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, newspapers and radio and television stations carried an Associated Press report suggesting that a church panel had declared masturbation to be healthy, homosexual marriages to be biblically supported and condom distribution among teen-agers to be a moral imperative.
The denomination's Chicago headquarters was deluged with angry phone calls. Lutheran pastors, faced with distressed or puzzled parishioners, said they hadn't seen the statement before reporters did.
Many of the denomination's 67 bishops expressed reservations about the statement, and some denounced it outright.