Conservatives in the Lutheran Church
have publicly renounced the church's approval of a gay resolution,
saying they were “saddened.”
On Friday, the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) – the largest Lutheran denomination in the
United States – voted in favor of eliminating its 20-year-old ban
against ministers in gay relationships.
The vote by 1,045 ELCA representatives
meeting this week in Minneapolis came late in the day and wasn't as
close as expected. With a 559 to 451 vote church liberals did away
with asking gay and lesbian pastors to remain celibate.
The resolution was put forward by the
ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality whose social statement, Human
Sexuality: Gift and Trust, was approved by church representatives
earlier in the week. The statement's early adoption was seen by many
as a good sign for church liberals in support of partnered gay and
lesbian pastors. The social statement offers diverse viewpoints on
gay relationships. It simultaneously affirms that “some are
convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to
biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law,” and that
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.” Liberals
called it “progress and compromise.”
Members of Lutheran CORE, the
conservative wing of the church that has battled against the gay
resolution, renounced the church vote.
“Lutheran CORE is continuing in the
Christian faith as it has been passed down to us by generations of
Christians,” Rev. Paul Spring, chairman of Lutheran CORE, said in a
statement. “I am saddened that a Lutheran Church that was founded
on a firm commitment to the Bible has come to the point that the ELCA
would vote to reject the Bible's teaching on marriage and homosexual
“It breaks my heart,” he added.
The group is also advocating members
withdraw financial support from the ELCA.
“Lutheran CORE leaders are inviting
faithful Lutheran congregations and individuals to direct funding
away from the national church body because of the decisions made this
week by the Churchwide Assembly. Lutheran CORE will participate in
and support faithful ELCA ministries, but cannot support ELCA
ministries that reject the authority of God's Word,” the group said
in a statement.
But whether anyone is leaving the
church over the debate remains to be seen.
“I'm not leaving,” Rev. Mark
Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, told the AP Friday. Chavez, of
Landisville, Pennsylvania, is married and has six children.
The inclusion of gay and lesbian
pastors in the church is not new or even controversial. But
previously the church officially removed gay pastors from the ELCA
clergy roster if they entered a relationship. If a church elected to
retain a non-celibate pastor, he or she would technically live
outside the church's hierarchy. Under the proposed change, which
won't be implemented until 2010, both gay and straight clergy and
professional lay workers must still remain faithful to their partners.
Lutheran CORE will hold a convention in
Indianapolis in September to plan its next steps.