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Lutherans to Vote on Gay Clergy

Timothy Kincaid

August 17th, 2009

This week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be holding their biennial convention in Minneapolis. And issues about the inclusing of gay clergy are predicted to dominate conversation and debate.

The ELCA has accepted celibate gay men and women as clergy, but has banned office from those who are in relationships. In February, a task force recommended that the leadership allow gay men and women in committed relationships to serve as clergy and further recommended that the church find some way to recognize “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

This year the church will make two decisions about gay Lutherans, one ideological and one structural. (Washington Times)

Of the two main documents on sexuality issues that will be considered at the ELCA assembly, one is a proposed social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which, as a statement of church teaching, must be passed by a two-thirds vote (about 700 people) of the 1,045 voting members present.

Eight years in the making, the 33-page treatise is a theological and teaching document that sets out denominational policy on a variety of topics ranging from marriage to pornography, and defines human sexuality as a “gift and trust.” It will be debated Tuesday afternoon and put to a vote Wednesday.

The other document, called a “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies,” recommends a change in ELCA ministry policies so Lutherans who are in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gendered relationships” can serve as ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers.

The latter document, slated for debate on Thursday and a vote on Friday, would allow local synods to decide whether they would allow a gay minister in a committed relationship to serve. The vote is considered by all sides to be too close to call.

Should the 4.8 million-member church choose to follow the lead of the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church, it will be the largest denomination to side with gay Christians in the debate over full inclusion in the body of believers. And it will likely experience defections and condemnation based on such a decision.

Ultimately, as gay men and women are viewed by parishoners as a variation on life rather than a perversion of God’s Plan, this is a decision that will be faced by all of Protestant Christianity.

Comments

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Piper
August 17th, 2009 | LINK

Well, as an ELCA member I think this is a long time coming. yeah, Lutherans take our own sweet time doing anything, but it gets old sometimes. Io know for a fact my home church would probably think about defecting if this passes, but we’d eventually stay with the church. We simply are an older congregation and some of the older members are stuck in their ways.

My synod is one of the more conservative synods, but I think we’d back the church, we’ve been debating this issue since I was in Junior High, and I’ve participated in some of the debates and personally seen minds changed due to thoughtful and respectful dialogue.

On another note, my pastor is taking a vacation this week, I was wondering why! and now I know!

Alan
August 17th, 2009 | LINK

I wonder if this will indeed come to pass…

I’ve seen polls of the ELCA, and it seems that the membership is ideologically very broad, from near-agnostics to near-fundamentalists and everything in between.

Which could make it very difficult to achieve consensus on this. Although if they do, it will make it easier to stay within the denomination. I was thinking about going Episcopalian or UCC, but maybe I’ll wait.

Terence
August 18th, 2009 | LINK

One of the great things about this resolution is that whether we win or lose the vote on gay clergy, we win overall.

This is because both sides have stated clearly that a big part of their arguments will be on the Scriptural basis of traditional teaching. This is much weaker than most people realise.

A calm and rational debate (which is likely with Lutherans) will inevitably weaken the case of all those, Lutherans Catholics and Fundies alike, who routinely yell “Scripture says…” without stopping to look closely at what it really says:

“Sodom” has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality;
Two verses from Leviticus are part of a Jweish purity code – like circumcision, dietary laws, and shaving – which in any case do not apply to Gentiles;
Two verses in the New Testament are of unclear translation, and may refer to temple prostitutes, rather than to loving relationships.

That leaves exactly one verse that may be genuinely applicable – but it speaks of “unnatural” relationships. What, exactly, should we consider “unnatural”?
For us, it may well be heterosexual intercourse that is unnatural.

On the other hand, there are abundant supportive passages: The story of Philip, the Ethiopian Eunuch, makes clear that sexual minorities are welcome in teh church; the healing of the Roman Centurion’s “paidion” shows that Christ himself was accepting of same sex lovers. (A centurion’s ‘paidion’ will ahve been a slave. Roman soldiers abroad were unmarried, and slaves were routinely used for sexual purposes.)See “The Gospels’ Queer Values” at Queeringthechurch.wordpress.com for more

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