Conservative Lutherans meeting in
Indianapolis have decided not to decide whether to leave the church
over gay issues, at least not for the next year.
About 1,200 members of the Lutheran
Coalition for Renewal (Lutheran CORE) voted Saturday to remain in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran
denomination in America with nearly 5 million members, but authorized
the creation of a panel to look into leaving the church, with
recommendations to be issued next year.
The group is unhappy that the ELCA
voted to drop its 20-year-old ban on partnered gay and lesbian
clergy. Previously, gay clergy were welcome in the church but were
required to remain celibate.
ELCA representatives also adopted a
little-noticed gay unions resolution during its Minneapolis meeting
last month. The gay unions resolution only says that the church has
committed itself to finding a way to recognize and support gay
relationships. But the resolution could be used to support the
belief that individual synods (or dioceses) may bless gay unions at
their discretion, pastors say.
“God is calling us to do something,”
Rev. Paull Spring, chair of Lutheran CORE, said in a statement. “The
ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time
to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and
transformation and for mission.”
“My advice to the ELCA members is
this: The time for hesitation is now over,” Rev. Eddie Perez told
attendees. “God is demanding a response from us.”
“We are not dividing the church. The
church is already divided. We're just mopping up what the church
did,” Rev. Paul Ulring said. “There is a future for us, a future
that we only glimpse right now. Things will happen that will make it
possible for us to do this, things that aren't clear right now, but
Jesus is in clear view.”
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.”
Meanwhile, in a retreat house in
Chicago, liberal Lutherans gathered to celebrate.
“As with any coming out, some members
of the ELCA family are reacting with celebration, others with fear
and anger, and some with silence,” Emily Eastwood, executive
director of Lutherans Concerned, said in a statement.
“The way forward for a fully
inclusive ELCA is clear.”
“The mission of the church has not
changed. What has changed is that now the work of all faithful
Lutherans towards the goals of the church can be recognized and
honored,” she added.