Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Tennessean: Lutherans propose allowing gay pastors in committed relationships

From where there are lots of Lutherans to where few have heard of them, the Tennessean reports:

Lutherans propose allowing gay pastors in committed relationships
Plan would let local churches decide on non-celibate pastors
By Bob Smietana

One of the nation's largest Protestant denominations would allow gay clergy in committed relationships to pastor local churches, under a new proposal from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Officially, all unmarried clergy in the 4.9 million-member denomination must remain celibate. But since 2007, Lutheran bishops have agreed not to discipline gay clergy who are sexually active.

On Thursday, a Lutheran task force on human sexuality recommended that local churches and synods — the Lutheran version of a diocese — decide the issue for themselves. If their idea is approved at this summer's Churchwide Assembly, the denomination would become the largest in the U.S. to allow non-celibate gay clergy.

Lutheran leaders hope the new proposal, which would let churches hire gay pastors involved in lifelong, monogamous relationships, can avoid the bitter conflicts that have plagued other denominations, like the Episcopal Church.

Church spokesman John Brooks said Lutherans, like many Christians, are divided over homosexuality. The new proposal allows them to agree to disagree. "It doesn't require a church to call a pastor who is in a committed same-sex relationship if they don't want to do that," he said.

The Rev. Rick Roberts, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Donelson, said members of his church are split on the issue. He believes the new proposal provides a workable solution. "It's time for us to make a decision and move on," Roberts said.

Roberts points out that while Jesus described marriage as being between a man and a woman, he never addressed homosexuality.

"I wish Jesus had said something about this, but he didn't," Roberts said.

The task force's proposal hinges on the Lutheran concept of what's called a bound conscience. The idea holds that Christians can disagree on what the Bible says on a wide range of social issues and still worship together. Click here to read the news release from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Two Hurdles In The Path

The new proposal faces two hurdles before becoming reality. First, it must pass the denomination's board of directors at the end of March. Then the Churchwide Assembly, a mixture of clergy and lay people, will vote during its August meeting in Minneapolis.

The Rev. Kevin Martin, pastor of Celebration Lutheran Church in Mt. Juliet, said his congregation has avoided disputes over sexuality. He doesn't think the new proposal will affect his congregation. "We'll just keep going about our business," he said.

The new proposal could resolve a conflict in the Southeastern Synod, which includes Middle Tennessee. Click here to read the anti-homosexuals ordained blog.

In 2007, the Rev. Bradley Schmeling, a gay Lutheran pastor in Atlanta, was removed from the denomination's clergy rolls. He's been allowed to remain at the church, for now.

Southeastern Bishop H. Julian Gordy, a Franklin resident, said giving churches a local option is a new idea for Lutherans. Though some Lutherans believe that women should not be ordained, for example, synods are not allowed to bar women as pastors.

Still, he believes that the compromise could work.

"But it's going to be hard."

See the whole story for several related web links of interest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really wish the headlines would distinguish these as ELCA decisions so we in the WELS and LCMS don't get lumped in.

The good ship ELCA...

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