Saturday, February 21, 2009

McClatchy: US Lutheran task force suggests 'structured flexibility' on gay pastors

The McClatchy Newspapers, via the Guardian in the United Kingdom, report:

US Lutheran task force suggests 'structured flexibility' on gay pastors
Group endorses ordination of gay pastors but will leave final decision up to individual congregations or synods

The long-awaited position on ordaining gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America isn't a clear yes or no.

An ELCA task force admitted yesterday that it could not reach a consensus on the issue that has polarised its members for years.

But with the matter expected to dominate this summer's national convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota its position paper offers this suggested solution: The ELCA will allow the ordination of gay pastors but will leave it up to individual congregations and synods whether to ordain or appoint pastors. The term used to describe this compromise is "structured flexibility".

While acknowledging that such an intentionally vague policy likely won't play well with "the bumper sticker crowd," the bishop of the St Paul Area Synod, the Rev Peter Rogness, said it reflects the ELCA's practice of trying to match ministers to congregations. He compared it to a rural congregation feeling that it would rather call a minister with a rural background, for instance.

"The Lutheran church has never imposed anything on anyone," he said. "We never have, and we never will." Leaders of Lutheran Core (Coalition for Reform), a group that describes its mission as seeking "to preserve the authority of the Bible in the ELCA," quickly announced that it will work to defeat the proposal at the convention.

The Rev Scott Grorud, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Minnesota, and a member of the organisation's steering committee, said the focus on trying to reach a consensus was misdirected.

"The history of Christianity is not based on trying to reach a consensus, it's based on distinguishing right from wrong," he said. Consensus-building is used for deciding things like "what color carpet to get. This is a recipe for disaster".

He pointed to a similar rift that threatens to split the Episcopal church into two factions. "They went to a local option, and look where it got them," he said. "That should not be the path that we want to follow."

On the other end of the political spectrum, St Paul, Minnesota-based Lutherans Concerned saluted the recommendations as a positive step but said the task force didn't go far enough.

"It's a vast improvement," spokesman Phil Soucy said. "But we still have profound differences with it overall."

In particular, the group would have liked to have seen a provision for a rite blessing same-sex relationships. "The paper is full of options," he said. "How about an optional rite? You don't have to use it, but it would be there."

The ELCA has 4.8 million members. One-third of the 1,000 delegates who will gather in Minneapolis 17-23 August will be clergy, and the rest will be lay people. The delegates were chosen last summer, so there will be no jockeying to pick those who support a particular stance on this issue.

1 comment:

Cap'n Bill said...

The Lutheran Church has never imposed its will on anyone?

There are a few dead Anabaptists who would take issue with that point if they could.

And that's about all I have to say about all this bilge.

Me, I be shippin' out on another ship. ELCA is heading straight into the Bermuda Triangle.

Cap'n Bill

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...