Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the
Lutheran Church, released a video Thursday pleading for unity as gay
issues threaten to splinter the church.
Bishop Hanson released his video as
conservative Lutherans prepare to meet in Indianapolis to consider
leaving the ELCA over its increasing acceptance of gay clergy.
“My heart aches when I hear ELCA
members express a feeling of abandonment because of the decisions on
human sexuality taken by our churchwide assembly,” he says.
Last month, representatives of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran
denomination in America with nearly 5 million members, meeting in
Minneapolis agreed to drop the church's 20-year-old ban on partnered
gay and lesbian clergy. Previously, gay clergy were welcome in the
church so long as they remained celibate.
Representatives also approved an
equivocal gay unions resolution that brings the church closer to
blessing gay unions. The resolution only says that the church has
committed itself to finding a way to recognize and support gay
The conservative group Lutheran CORE
opposed the gay resolutions. In Indianapolis, the group is expected
to ask about 1,200 attendees to consider joining a new church.
Attendees will vote on a resolution
that calls for the formation of a “free-standing synod” separate
from the ELCA and encourages congregations to withhold their
donations from the ELCA.
“I am deeply concerned when ELCA
members and congregations are being encouraged to signal that
disagreement by withholding financial support,” Hanson says in the
“Because the unintended consequence
is to diminish our capacity for mission.”
ELCA's mission is “reaching out into
the community with child care, food and Jesus, the bread of life,”
“seminaries, campus and outdoor ministries, preparing leaders for
the church of the future,” and “ELCA members together responding
to hungry people and rebuilding communities devastated by natural
disaster,” he says.
“I want to ask you today. Continue
to pray for this church. But also to step forth and publicly express
your commitment to financially supporting and personally being
engaged in the life and ministry we have together as the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America.”
Conservatives say their concerns are
not about acceptance of gay men and lesbians but whether the ELCA has
turned its back on Church Scripture.
“This disagreement is not about sex,”
Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, said in the group's
latest newsletter. “It is about the source of authority in the
ELCA. The assembly's sexuality decisions have opened the eyes of
people to the biblical and theological crisis in the ELCA.”