Partnered gay clergy welcome in Lutheran Church

Sat. August 22, 2009 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

Minneapolis, MN - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has voted in favor of eliminating its 20-year-old ban against ministers in gay relationships on Friday.

The vote by 1,045 ELCA representatives meeting this week in Minneapolis came late in the day and wasn't as close as expected. With a 559 to 451 vote church liberals did away with asking gay and lesbian pastors to remain celibate.

"Today I am proud to be a Lutheran," Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, said in a statement released by Goodsoil, a coalition of gay-inclusive Lutheran groups.

"Supporters and advocates of full inclusion have longed for this day since inception of ELCA, and for many of us what seemed like a lifetime. The ELCA has always had gay ministers, now those and all ministers are free to claim who they are and to have the love and support of a lifelong partner, regardless of orientation or gender identity, which is all we ever asked," Eastwood added.

ELCA is the largest Lutheran denomination in America with nearly 5 million members.

The single-sentence resolution says the church is committed to finding ways to allow people in "accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders."

Previously the church officially removed gay and lesbian pastors from the ELCA clergy roster if they entered a relationship. But often pastors remained in their positions. Placing them, technically, outside the church's hierarchy.

Last month, the Episcopal Church lifted its self-imposed, three-year moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and approved giving bishops the discretion to bless gay unions, especially in states where gay marriage or civil unions are legal. The church also decided to begin creation of an official blessing for gay unions to be considered at a later date.
Since then, three openly gay clergy have been nominated for bishop by Episcopalians. Two of the nominations came from California, while a third occurred in Minnesota.

At the center of the controversy is Rev. Gene Robinson, whose 2003 consecration as bishop threatened to split the church. Robinson, 61, lives in Weare, New Hampshire with his husband.

The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, which is headed by the Church of England. A small number of conservative churches have severed ties with the Episcopal Church – and have aligned themselves with conservative Anglican churches in Africa – over the issue of gay clergy.

Earlier in the week, Lutheran Church liberals cheered the church's adoption of a "social statement on human sexuality" despite its conflicting views on gay relationships.

The social statement offers diverse viewpoints on gay relationships. It simultaneously affirms that "some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law," and that others "believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage."

But Goodsoil's Eastwood applauded its passage, saying it was "progress and compromise."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine