Saturday, February 21, 2009

RNS: Lutherans Move to Allow Gay Clergy -- Sort of

Daniel Burke of the Religion News Service writes:

Lutherans Move to Allow Gay Clergy -- Sort of

A blue-ribbon panel recommended on Thursday (Feb. 19) 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 respecting 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 4.8 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 task force also released a 30-page statement outlining the church's thinking on homosexuality, but, citing a lack of consensus, did not offer a recommendation on whether to adopt rites for blessing same-sex couples.

If adopted by the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in August, the proposals would remove the blanket ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, empowering local congregations and governing bodies to make their own decisions on whether to allow them.

"As on most matters, we trust people locally to make good decisions," said the Rev. Stan Olson, an advisor to the task force and head of the ELCA's unit on vocations.

While permitting non-celibate gay clergy would be a watershed decision for the ELCA, numerous obstacles could waylay the four-step process when it is considered by more than 1,000 delegates Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.

Emily Eastwood, executive director of the pro-gay group Lutherans Concerned/North America, called the recommendations a "net gain."

But, Eastwood said, "we are distraught by the complexity of this system and the bureaucracy needed to maintain it if it passes."...

Read it all here.

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