August 14, 2007

ELCA and Gay Clergy

Filed under: Church — Bob Gifford @ 6:08 pm

My denomination, the ELCA, had our biennial Churchwide Assembly this past week, and as it has been for the past several assemblies, the hot topic was whether to allow non-celibate LGBT pastors to serve.

Here’s the run-down. About a third of the synods in the US passed memorials (i.e. motions) to allow gay pastors in a same-sex relationship that is mutual, committed and chaste to serve an ELCA congregation. The national church recommended referring these memorials to the Sexuality Task Force which has been working for four years and is scheduled to wrap up in another two years. Hence, this would take this issue off the docket for 2007, postponing it until the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The motion to refer the memorials to the Task Force won handily I’m afraid. But the good news is that an additional motion also passed handily:

RESOLVED, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members, the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.

So the ELCA has not been able to bring itself to actually change our exclusive, punitive policy regarding LGBT pastors, but we have said that for the next two years we will not enforce the current policy. This is too late for Pastor Bradley Schmeling in Atlanta (although he will remain at St. Johns), but is a respite for my friend and pastor, Pastor J, and others like him.

Change for Lutherans seems to happen at a glacial pace, which is ironic given our genesis. Martin Luther changed the face of Christendom in a heartbeat, but here we are putting off any real change for another two years. And what is disturbing is that the deep division in the ELCA won’t disappear between now and the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. I’m sure everyone involved can see how this is going to go in 2009 — a motion to allow LGBT pastors to serve will receive majority approval, but will fall short of the two-thirds approval required to change the bylaws. So we’ll extend the moratorium on discipline for another two years.

But this is the Lutheran way. Try to keep everyone happy, avoid conflict, compromise, waffle and dodge so that nobody’s feelings are hurt. Minnesota nice. And in our own Lutheran way, we’ll muddle through until the younger generation begins infiltrating the representatives at the Churchwide Assembly and we finally achieve a two-thirds majority to change the bylaws. So we’ll change, but we’ll do it as Lutherans. Slowly.

(More resources: Lutherans Concerned/North America, Goodsoil)

1 Comment

  1. I find such updates really helpful as a Lay Minister and ordinand in the small LCiGB.
    The pace of change may be glacially slow but we need to be thankful that we aren’t going through what the Anglicans and Episcopalians are going through over the same issue.
    At least in the Lutheran church there is hope and expectation of positive change and the maintainance of respectful relationships rather than the vitriol and hate our Anglican Brothers in Britain, Africa and America are pouring on each other: be clear – this will lead to schism there and we need to learn from them and avoid the same fate.

    Comment by Doorman-Priest — August 20, 2007 @ 1:39 am

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