The president of the second largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. is urging Lutherans to reject recently approved pro-gay resolutions or risk losing his church's cooperation.

In August, representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in America with nearly 5 million members, voted in favor of eliminating its 20-year-old ban against 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. 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.

In a letter addressed to Bishop Mark S. Hanson, the presiding Bishop of the ELCA, and the Conference of Bishops gathering in Chicago this weekend, Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), which includes about 2.4 million members, urged the church to reject the gay resolutions.

Hanson is overseeing the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

“Bishop Hanson and Conference of Bishops … it would be a blessing to our ongoing cooperative relationships if the actions taken at the ELCA Assembly were not implemented, nor given influence, in the context of inter-Lutheran ministries involving the LCMS and the ELCA, so that these relationships would be neither damaged nor destroyed,” Kieschnick wrote.

Last month, conservative members of the ELCA agreed to look into leaving the church over the gay resolutions. About 1,200 members of the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (Lutheran CORE) meeting in Indianapolis voted to remain in the ELCA but authorized creation of a panel to look into leaving the church, with recommendations to be issued next year.

At that meeting, Rev. Paul Ulring told attendees that gay issues had divided the church.

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided. We're just mopping up what the church did,” he 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 [leave the church], things that aren't clear right now, but Jesus is in clear view.”