Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicago Tribune: Lutheran task force recommends recognition of gay unions

From the Chicago Tribune:

Lutheran task force recommends recognition of gay unions
by Manya Brachear and Margaret Ramirez | Tribune staff reporters

A task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended Thursday that its leaders officially recognize same-sex unions and allow gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

At the same time, the task force also asked members of the church to respect congregations and synods that disagree because they believe such actions would violate Scripture.

If approved, the measures would change current church policy that allows ordination of gay clergy, but requires them to be celibate. In the report, the task force proposed a four-step process that outlines a possible path for change, starting with recognition of same-sex relationships.

"The task force agreed that this church cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless this church is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships," the report said.

The recommendation will be voted on at the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis in August. Reaction to the recommendation was expected to range from elation to disapproval.

The task force stopped short of recommending a liturgical rite for gay unions or using the word marriage to describe them. But, the report said "most of the task force members believe that ways can be found within local congregations to surround the commitments of such couples with prayer."

Rev. Peter Strommen, the Minnesota pastor who served as chair of the 15-member task force, said a context for public promises would help the church better define those relationships.

"Given we have no clarity or structure, we feel it's important for there to be an equivalent of public accountability," Strommen said.

In addition to the recommendations on ministry policies, the special church task force released a proposed social statement on human sexuality for the ECLA. Drawing from Martin Luther's spoken words that spawned the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, the task force called on its members to respect each other's views about same-gender relationships as grounded in conscience.

The statement entitled "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, but also acknowledged same sex couples.

"It is only within the last decades that this church has begun to understand in new ways the need of same-gender oriented individuals to seek relationships of lifelong companionship and commitment," the statement said.

That view laid the foundation for recommendations on possibly recognizing gay unions....

Read it all here.

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