Homosexual clergy: a little local matter

Twin sets of Lutherans waiting for the reccommendation in 2007

Lutherans weigh making gay clergy a local decision

Associated Press

A task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended that course Thursday in a long-awaited report on ministry standards. The panel, however, said the church needs to clarify a number of questions before overhauling its gay clergy policy.

The report, issued at the same time as a broader church social statement on human sexuality, seeks balance on an issue dividing many Protestant churches. Both documents will be considered in August in Minneapolis at the biannual convention of the 4.7-million member denomination.

"At this point, there is no consensus in the church," said the Rev. Peter Strommen of Prior Lake, Minn., chairman of the 15-member task force on sexuality. "The question ends up being, 'How are we going to live together in that absence of consensus?'

"This ought not to be church-dividing, even if there are strong differences."

Church members on both sides of the issue, however, were dissatisfied with the proposal. Conservatives called it a rejection of Scripture and an advocate for gay clergy said some of the elements take "a step backward."

Gays and lesbians can now serve as clergy in the ELCA if they remain celibate, although some congregations have challenged the system and hired pastors in gay relationships. Heterosexual clergy and professional lay workers are to abstain from sex outside marriage.
Between August 2006 and July 2007 Pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta was tried before the church's disciplinary processes for his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. The congregation of the church stood in solidarity with Pastor Schmeling and full details of the events of the trial are still on the church's website. Bradley Schmeling was eventually "removed from the ELCA roster". Nonetheless he remains in post and the bishop at the time, and his successor, have not pursued him further.

It is expected, hoped, that he will be the last to face such discipline.

In November 2007 the local option was the route chosen by Norway's state Lutheran Church. Here.

There's little comfort in knowing it's not just Anglicans torn apart in the culture wars. I hope they make a better fist of it than we've managed to date. If they want a covenant we've got a spare they can have.

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