US Lutherans to ordain partnered gays and lesbians?

A blue-ribbon panel has recommended that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lift its ban on partnered gay and lesbian clergy, but only after the church agrees in principle on gay relationships and agrees to respect the consciences of those who dissent.

A majority of the 15-member Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality believes that "it is possible to devise guidelines and policies that would allow . . . some flexibility" in its ordination standards.

The 4.7-million-member ELCA currently allows gay or lesbian clergy who pledge to be celibate; partnered or sexually active homosexual clergy are technically not allowed in ELCA pulpits, though some buck the rules without punishment.

The Lutherans have been moving slowly and carefully towards a more accepting position for some time (see past post). This is not a done deal, not least because of cumbersome decision making processes, and there will undoubtedly be opposition, some of it vehement. There will probably be some splits and defections.

Nonetheless it is in itself a step towards the recognition of gay and lesbian people as fully human within full membership of God's church. It is a steps away from the 'don't ask, don't tell' duplicity that pervades much clerical life.

One day there will be no need to hide your loved ones away.

In the mean time there is a lot more thinking and debating to do:

In order to lift restrictions on gay clergy, the assembly must approve each of the following resolutions before the next can be considered:

• That the ECLA is committed to allowing congregations and synods to recognize and support "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."
• That the ELCA is committed to finding a way for people in such relationships to serve as clergy in the church.
• That the ELCA agrees to "respect the bound consciences" of church members who disagree on the issue.
• That the ELCA agrees to remove the blanket ban on partnered gay clergy.

Task Force leaders said the church must deal with underlying issues—how it feels about gay relationships and the lack of consensus in the church—before it can amend its rules.


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