National Lutheran News

GAY ORDINATION ISSUE FESTERING IN ELCA

Even though guidelines for ordaining pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) exclude candidates living in committed homosexual relationships, two midwest congregations have joined two others in California in setting aside the church’s expectations.

In recent years an ELCA congregation in San Francisco was disciplined for ordaining pastors living in such relationships.

Last September the Rev. Robert W. Mattheis, bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, declined to file disciplinary charges against a Berkeley, California, congregation when it decided to call a man whose life choices were in conflict with the guideline.

In December, 2000, St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minnesota, voted to ordain its staff member, Anita Hill, who lives in a committed lesbian relationship. The ordination took place on April 28. St. Paul Area Synod Bishop Mark Hanson said Hill cannot be considered a candidate for inclusion on the ELCA roster of regularly ordained pastors.
No decision has been announced by the St. Paul Area Synod leadership about whe-ther the congregation should — or will — be disciplined.

On April 5, the Rev. Charles H. Maahs, bishop of the Central States Synod censured and admonished Abiding Peace Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Missouri, for “willfully violating” the ELCA’s constitution.

Abiding Peace called and ordained Donna Simon to serve as its pastor, according to a March 24 news release from the synod. Simon also lives in a committed lesbian relationship.

Maahs stopped short of recommending removal of the congregation from the official roster of ELCA congregations, an action he could have taken.

“I am disappointed that in its professed concern for the ELCA, Abiding Peace is willing to push constitutional boundaries rather than consider other means of partnership that would be less damaging to the potential unity of the ELCA.”

All four congregations have said they believe the ELCA policy excluding from ordination gay candidates living in committed relationships is wrong.