August 14, 2007

Lutherans End Punishment for Pastors in Same-Sex Relationship

From Reuters:

Homosexual Lutheran clergy who are in sexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said on Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships. "

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

"The Church ... has just said 'Do not do punishments' ," said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within the church. "That is huge."

The ELCA, which has 4.8 million members, had previously allowed gays to serve as pastors so long as they abstained from sexual relations.

The conference also instructed a committee that is developing a social statement on sexuality to further investigate the issue. The committee is scheduled to release its report in 2009.

Since the ELCA was founded in 1988, the group has ordered three pastors in gay relationships to be removed from their ministries. The most recent case was decided in July when the ELCA's committee on appeals voted to remove an openly gay pastor from St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta.

This is obviously encouraging, but the Lutherans are hardly overwhelmingly embracing this situation. A 538-431 vote means there is still quite a split in the church, and as the Christian Post reports, the day before the delegation had voted down a measure that would have ended the ban. That means that a ban still exists, but it is not enforceable with punishment.

That is not a situation that will lead to peace within the denomination and bears watching as time goes forward.

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