Gays in the pulpit

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America does not appear to be moving toward endorsing the role of homosexuals in relationships as pastors. Under the current rules, homosexuals can be ministers in the church if they promise to be celibate.

In August, ELCA’s national convention in Minneapolis will consider whether to leave that up to each of the 65 synods nationwide.

On Sunday, the Northwest Minnesota Synod approved a resolution rejecting a proposal that non-celibate gays be allowed to serve as clergy members. The resolution rejecting the proposal passed by just two votes (See resolution).

“I’m not surprised that it was close,” Bishop Larry Wohlrabe told the Worthington Daily News (registration required). “I’m a little amazed that it was that close.”

Before passing the resolution, however, delegates struck a provision that declared “a majority of ELCA members and most Christian churches — including most in the Lutheran World Federation — believe that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.”

At the same time, the synod voted against a resolution that would have rejected ELCA’s social statement, “Human Sexuality Gift and Trust. ” (See report), which says after “many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.” But the draft says the church “supports legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public services. It has called upon congregations and members to welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families, and to advocate for their legal protection.”

The ELCA social statement rejected by the synod was drafted by a task force headed by Rev. Peter Strommen, of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake.

By way of background, City Pages profiled four people last summer who have a particular interest in the question.

  • momkat

    I didn’t realize Lutherans require celibacy of gay ministers. Good idea. Celibate priests have worked out so well for the Catholic Church.

  • Elizabeth T

    It seems as if the world at large has missed the point.

    Is the objection to sex outside of marriage? Or is the objection the type of biological organs being used during sex?

    Do Lutheran ministers have to be celibate if they’re straight?

  • Kim V

    Ah of course, the old “homosexuality = pedophilia” argument….don’t know if these guys haven’t been told, but homosexuality hasn’t been listed as a DSM disease for several decades.

  • Ralph W.

    Their being all over the map – no gay marriage, but advocate for legal protections; celibate gays OK, non-celibate gays bad – shows that you really cannot be half-way on these issues.

    One can only hope this is a step along the path. “Splitting the difference” is lose-lose over time.

  • kennedy

    By my read, the vote was to reject the rejection. This means the social statement was accepted, including the language acknowledging a lack of consensus on same-gender relationships.

    If you read the statement, it also expresses the need to support family relationships including same-sex couples. One recommendation at the end of the statement is to revise the church’s payroll/pension policies to accomodate the same broader definition of “family”. To me, these seem to be steps in the direction of supporting all positive, monogamous relationships.

    Comments about lack of progress seem like seeing the glass half empty.

  • Bob Collins

    Correct. I rewrote that about a dozen times because of the way it was structured; I guess it still didn’t get through. The bottom line is the ELCA synods I mentioned do not support non-celibate gays as pastors but do support the social statement.

    But you may be confusing the two. There are two separate issues here. One is on the role non-celibates as pastors, one is on the role of gays in the church. I obviously disagree with your assessment — or my assessment — on movement toward non-celibates as pastors, although you may well have some feedback from synods voting on the issue that I haven’t seen.