Thursday, August 11, 2005

Lutherans to Vote on Policy About Gays

(Link) "This issue should not be church-dividing. Remember that lesbians also have a strong potluck supper tradition."

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Rachel Zost, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With a critical vote on the role of gays in the church just days away, Lutheran leaders told a national assembly that deep disagreement over what the Bible says about homosexuality need not split their denomination.

The Rev. James M. Childs, head of sexuality studies for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said he was "profoundly concerned that we not squander this great gift of unity."

More than 1,000 delegates at the weeklong meeting will decide whether the church should ordain gays who are not celibate and bless same-sex unions. Debate is expected to begin Thursday afternoon and a vote is set for Friday, but both could be delayed by other assembly business.

Advocates for full inclusion of gays have lined the hallways leading to daily meetings, holding poster-sized photos of their children or their same-sex partners to highlight the personal stories behind the deliberations. One gay couple brought their sons, and emphasized that they had been together for 15 years.

Some advocates, however, have lobbied against the measures under consideration, saying they would create a second-class roster for homosexual clergy in the church.

On the conservative side, the Solid Rock Lutherans group has been seeking out undecided voters, urging them to reject any easing of prohibitions on partnered gays.

Several delegates have said that the proposals, based on three years of work by a denominational task force, are confusing and their impact unclear. The measures are meant as a compromise, aiming to uphold restrictions on gays in relationships, while allowing congregations and bishops to make exceptions in some cases without risking discipline.

The measures developed from the task force findings would:

* Affirm the church ban on ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians, but allow bishops and church districts called synods to seek an exception if the candidate is in a committed relationship and meets other conditions.

* Uphold the denomination's prohibition against blessing of same-sex unions, but give bishops and pastors discretion in deciding how to minister to gay couples.

* Call for unity, even though congregants disagree on the issue.

"This issue should not be church-dividing," said the Rev. Joseph Crippen, a Minnesota member of the Church Council, a top policy body. "Our unity in Christ is stronger than what divides us on this issue."

Indeed, a schism in the 4.9 million-member church is not imminent, although conservative Lutherans have planned a November meeting to consider forming an association of like-minded congregations within the ELCA.

Delegates also are aware that debate over homosexuality has roiled other Protestant groups. The global Anglican Communion is struggling to stay together after its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, confirmed its first openly gay bishop two years ago.