Thursday, February 19, 2009

Star Tribune: ELCA offers compromise on gay clergy issue

From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

ELCA offers compromise on gay clergy issue
By Jeff Strickler, Star Tribune
February 19, 2009

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 today admitted it could not reach a consensus on the issue that has polarized its members for years. But with the matter expected to dominate this summer's national convention in Minneapolis, 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 hire gay pastors. The term used to describe this compromise s "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's in keeping with the ELCA's practice of trying to match ministers to congregations. He compared it to a rural congregation feeling that it would relate better to 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."

No one is predicting yet how the proposal will fare at the convention, where one-third of the voters are clergy and rest are lay people. The feedback the bishops get from their congregations likely will give some sort of indication of how the vote will go, although even that will vary by location, with metropolitan-area synods generally expected to endorse the change with rural synods being more reluctant. (There are six synods in Minnesota, one for each of the Twin Cities and four outstate.)

The position paper on gay ordination was accompanied by the release of a final version of a social statement on marriage that also will be submitted to the convention and contains a potential landmine of its own.

The statement affirms the ELCA's longtime definition of marriage as "a covenant between a man and a woman" but goes on to acknowledge the validity of "lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships." No one is using the term "gay marriage," noting that marriage is a legal designation determined by the state, but the implication is clear.

"We feel it is very important that we ask homosexual ministers to be publicly accountable for their relationships the same way we ask heterosexual ministers to be publicly accountable," said the Rev. Peter Strommen, the chairman of the task force and pastor at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake....

Read it all here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "bumper sticker crowd"? Care to elaborate on who you're trying to insult here, Peter?

The good ship ELCA...

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