Lutheran Decision Splits on Gay Clergy; Breaking Rule Nets No Censure

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

Lutheran Decision Splits on Gay Clergy; Breaking Rule Nets No Censure


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A Lutheran task force handed a victory to homosexual rights groups yesterday by recommending that although the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should not change its policy against ordaining homosexual clergy, it should not censure churches that break the rule.

But "those who feel conscience-bound to call people [as pastors] in committed same-sex unions should refrain from making the call a media event either as an act of defiance or with the presumption of being prophetic," the task force warned.

The 14-member task force pronounced itself conflicted and unable to agree about how the ELCA should proceed.

What emerged in their report - released at church headquarters in Chicago - was a compromise in which congregations could hire homosexual clergy without making this the official policy in the 4.9-million-member denomination.

The compromise came as three recommendations:

*That Lutherans "learn to live together faithfully," while disagreeing, thus avoiding the splits over homosexuality that have dominated the Episcopal Church, which has shared sacraments, clergy and ministry with the ELCA since 2001.

*That the ELCA continue to have no official policy on same-sex unions, but "respect" a 1993 ELCA bishops' statement that does not approve such ceremonies as official church acts;

*That the denomination not discipline churches that hire homosexual clergy, nor the clergy themselves. At least 14 openly homosexual seminarians or clergy serve in ELCA churches, according to the San Francisco-based Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries.

Several ELCA bishops raised red flags about the report, which will be debated and voted on in August at the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla.

Bishop H. Gerard Knoche of the Delaware-Maryland Synod called it "a policy change even though it claims not to be" from current ELCA policy that allows people with homosexual attractions to be ordained, but expects that they remain celibate.

Bishop James Mauney of ELCA's Virginia Synod said he did not see "a basis for affirming homosexual behavior within Scripture or our Lutheran confessions."

He added, "Nowhere do I see in the Scriptures where Jesus condones the practice of the tax collectors or the woman caught in adultery or the life of the rich young ruler, though we are told he loves him in the Gospel of Mark."

The report follows the general drift of other mainline Protestant denominations to loosen their policies on homosexual clergy and same-sex unions. …

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