National Lutheran News

ELCA won’t postpone 2005 vote on ordaining gay and lesbian pastors

Nation’s largest Lutheran group met in Milwaukee August 11-17

Depending on your point of view, there’s a feeling of anticipation — or dread — growing in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

It was palpable among voting members who gathered for the eighth biennial churchwide assembly of America’s largest Lutheran Church body in Milwaukee, August 11-17.

While a vote on whether people in committed homosexual relationships should be ordained is not scheduled until 2005, the issue was in the air when the 1,035 voting members streamed into Mil-waukee’s Midwest Airlines Center.

As was the case in Indianapolis in 2001, when the ordination of gays and lesbians was debated, proponents and opponents once again gathered around the perimeter of the hall where business sessions took place, lobbying for attention and influence.

A grass-roots group, Soul-force, encouraged voting members and visitors to wear symbols of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons. According to the newsletter published by Wingspan, a Twin Cities GLBT ministry, several hundred voting members wore the symbols.

Countering Soulforce were demonstrators who stood outside the convention hall with signs reading “Homosexuality is a sin.”
The 2001 ELCA churchwide assembly asked for a four-year study process exploring questions about whether or not people in committed homosexual relationships should be or-dained, and whether or not the ELCA should have an official policy on blessing same-gender relationships.

A final report with recommendations will be presented to the 2005 Orlando Assembly. A social statement on human sexuality is due to be presented at the 2007 churchwide assembly.

At Milwaukee, voting members narrowly defeated an attempt to delay the final report, and then voted 687-278 to decline requests from some of the church’s 65 synods to delay the ordination issue until 2007, when the sexuality report will be received.

In other action, voting members:

* Declined a proposed ELCA constitutional amendmens that would have re-quired ecumenical agreements or standards for professional leaders to be ap-proved by congregations.

* Called on the U.S. government to admit more refugees into the country and to provide better care for refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers.

* Defeated a proposed expansion of the ELCA Church Council from 37 to 69 voting members, that would have allowed each of the 65 synods to have a member on the Council.

* Declined a proposal that would have allowed ELCA bishops to be installed without the participation of other bishops in the historic episcopate. The Twin Cities-based WordAlone Network had supported this proposal.

* Adopted (933-42) a comprehensive evangelism strategy with four objectives: calling the church to prayer, preparing and renewing evangelical leaders, teaching discipleship and renewing congregations.