News for Week Ending 8/24/2009
Lutherans approve partnered gay pastorsThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in a week-long meeting of the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took two actions likely to have repercussions beyond the ELCA. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)
On August 19, 2009, the governing body of the largest Lutheran church in the U.S. adopted a “social statement” titled “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” Such social statements are guides to church action, and adoption of the statement was a prelude to consideration of a more controversial decision two days later on partnered gay pastors. The statement addresses, among other things, “lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships,” acknowledging that members of the ELCA are not of one mind about such relationships. The statement was passed by the required two-thirds majority. Attempts by conservatives to amend the statement were defeated.
The ELCA press release concerning “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” can be read here. News stories include those from Episcopal News Service and Associated Press.
The biggest news of the week from the Lutheran meeting, however, was the passage, on August 21, of a proposal (in the words of the ELCA press release) “to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships.” Previously, such pastors were expected to be celibate. The usual arguments were advanced against this move, and some are threatening to leave the ELCA as a result of the church’s decision. The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, expressed the hope that a way could be found to keep Lutherans in the church whose conscience cannot accept the decision taken by the ELCA. (See the press release here.)
Other stories on the ELCA decision to remove the celibacy requirement for pastors are available from The Living Church, Episcopal News Service, Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. Associated Press has summarized the positions on gay clergy of various churches here.