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South Minneapolis congregation will ordain pastor living in same-sex relationship

Jay Wiesner

Jay Wiesner

ELCA bishop for Minneapolis area tried unsuccessfully to get the vote postponed

One month after voting to change their constitution to permit such a step, a south Minneapolis congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has extended a call to a pastoral candidate living in a committed same-sex relationship.
Voting on January 25, members of Bethany Lu-theran Church, 2511 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis’ Seward Neigh-borhood, changed their constitution, permitting calls to pastoral candidates from either the ELCA approved roster or the roster of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.
The ECP roster includes theologically trained ELCA candidates for ordination who are ineligible for regular call because they live in committed same-sex relationships.
On February 22, members of Bethany gave 90% approval to a motion extending a call to ordained ministry to Jay Wiesner, the congregation’s pastoral minister for outreach.
Wiesner lives in a committed relationship with a same-sex partner. He has been serving Bethany Church for the past two years.
Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop Craig Johnson had urged the congregation not to issue the call to Wiesner. In a letter to Bethany’s members, Johnson wrote, “You propose a precedent which can only cause a splintering of our ordained leadership.”
Johnson also wrote, “I would respectfully ask you to table this vote until the August 2005 actions [of the ELCA] Churchwide Assembly.”
The ELCA will vote in 2005 on whether to change its policy, which currently forbids ordination for those living in same-sex relationships.
Bethany’s pastor, the Rev. Steve Benson, told Metro Lutheran the congregation had made the decision after careful deliberation. He said the members had prayerfully concluded “that we had a moral responsibility to call Jay as a full pastor.”
Bethany plans to ordain Wiesner in July, during a national gathering of members of a Lutheran advocacy group for gay and lesbian persons. In that setting, the event is shaping up as a repeat of a similar ordination held at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. When that congregation ordained Anita Hill, an ECP candidate living in a same-sex relationship, in 2001, the standing-room-only ceremony drew national media attention.