Aug 25, 2009
...There is a Lutheran saying that wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, coffee will be among them.
The 2009 Churchwide Assembly (CWA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met in Minneapolis, Minnesota (MPLSMN) in August. Pursuant to a directive from previous CWAs, voters approved a social statement on human sexuality that expressly refuses to condemn monogamy for gays and lesbians. The 676 to 338 vote was exactly the two-thirds margin required for the adoption of the social statement. There is a great deal in the lengthy statement that deals with heterosexuals, but the portions on homosexuality got all the attention.
The CWA also approved, in a simple majority vote (by nevertheless a commanding majority) a change in church policy that would allow gay and lesbian pastors in committed same-sex relationships to remain in their jobs. The church cannot require a congregation either to call or to continue the call of a gay or lesbian pastor, but congregations are now free to issue a call to an openly gay or lesbian ordained pastor. (Infidelity and bigamy are still big no-nos.)
Some congregations have threatened to leave the ELCA over the adoption of these resolutions. The ELCA is the largest of the Lutheran denominations in the United States, the other major ones being the more conservative Missouri Synod and the ultra-conservative Wisconsin Synod. (It can be confusing to outsiders and insiders alike that the regional districts of the ELCA are also called Synods; the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods are national denominations named for the state where they are headquartered. The Missouri and Wisconsin Synods don't even allow women to be pastors, so don't expect them to have anything nice to say about gays any time before the rapture.)
We'll see how this shakes down among the rank and file. I work as a secretary at one ELCA church and as organist for another, and know people on both sides of the issue at both congregations. When the church where I grew up called its first female pastor in 1977, there was an awful lot of rancor; but of the 15 ELCA churches in town, only one has never issued a pastoral call to a woman.
On the other hand, most of the 15 ELCA congregations in town still use the version of the Lord's Prayer and 23rd Psalm with all the thees and thys and thous.