The Lutheran Church is set to consider
several gay issues this week as representatives gather in
Representatives of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), America's largest Lutheran
denomination with nearly 5 million members, will face two
controversial gay issues this week during its biennial convention.
In all, 1,045 voting representatives
will decide on two issues important to the GLBT community.
Members will first consider a social
statement on human sexuality titled Human Sexuality: Gift and
Trust. While the statement includes a section on gay and lesbian
relationships, the 15-member task force tapped to develop the
statement freely admits that members were not able to reconcile
conflicting views on gay relationships.
The social statement affirms that “some
are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to
biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law,” while
others “believe that the neighbor and community are best served
when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and
monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards,
sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage.”
Implementing resolutions include a call
to “assist members to understand what it means to be hospitable to
all in the name of Christ regardless of sexual orientation and gender
identity” and support for ELCA's adopted response to the HIV/AIDS
Because the social statement on human
sexuality offers diverse viewpoints on gay relationships it is widely
expected to win approval this week. But a more contentious proposal
that would repeal the church's ban on non-celibate gay pastors from
leading churches is once again on the table, and certain to draw a
heated debate. In ways, the proposal only acknowledges changes
already taking place in the church.
Since the early 1990s the church has
taken in gay and lesbian pastors, so long as they promise to remain
celibate. But several churches now say they are being led by pastors
in gay relationships.
In 2007, Rev. Bradley Schmeling, an
Atlanta pastor, was removed from the ELCA clergy roster after he
announced he was in a gay relationship but his church kept him on as
pastor. Technically, Schmeling is not recognized as leading St.
John's Lutheran Church because he is in a gay relationship.
Opponents of the change say gay
relationships run counter to the word of God as dictated by
“It is our feeling and our belief
that what the Bible is telling us is that same-sex marriage and
relationships are harmful,” Diane Baardson, a member of the
Redeemer Lutheran Church council, told the AP. “We welcome
homosexuals into our church, and we love them. But we're not going
to say hey, that's a good idea.”
But even opponents acknowledge that
church liberals will eventually prevail. If not this year, then
certainly in 2011.