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Old 21st August 2009, 11:52 PM
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Associated Press Article - 08/21/09 9:33PM EDT

Lutherans To Allow Sexually Active Gays As Clergy
Based on an article by Patrick Condon

Condensed by Grumpybear

Leaders of the Evangelical Church in America, The USA's largest Lutheran denomination with over 4.7 million members, meeting in Minneapolis voted to lift the ban on sexually active gays and lesbians from serving as ministers. 68 percent of the over 1,000 delegates at the ELCA's National Assembly voted in favor of the change.

Under the new policy, individual ELCA congregations can hire homosexuals as clergy IF they are in a committed relationship. Previously, they would have had to remain celibate to serve. While heterosexual clergy and professional lay workers will still have to abstain from sex outside of marriage, the change applies to those in a "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship" for whom marriage is still typically not available.

Although conservative congregations would not be forced to hire gays, opponents decried the change as straying from clear Scriptural directions. David Keck, a delegate from Southern Ohio, argued against the change as a step toward the ECLA "blessing of same-sex unions as the policy of this church."

The Rev. Richard Mahan, pastor at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Charleston, W.Va. argued, "Nowhere in Scripture does it say homosexuality and same-sex marriage is acceptable to God. Instead, it says it is immoral and perverted."

The Rev. Leslie Williamson, associate pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Des Plaines, Ill., supported the measure. "I have seen these same-gender relationships function in the same way as heterosexual relationships _ bringing joy and blessings as well as trials and hardships. The same-gender couples I know live in love and faithfulness and are called to proclaim the word of God as are all of us."

The Rev. Katrina Foster, a lesbian pastor at Fordham ELC in the Bronx, said Lutherans heard similar warnings about flouting Scripture when they made past changes that are now seen as successful _ chiefly, the ordination of women. She also declared "We can learn not to define ourselves by negation. By not only saying what we are against, which always seems to be the same _ against gay people. We should be against poverty. I wish we were as zealous about that."

It was the inconsistent enforcement of the old policy that lead to formation of a special task force to address the issue and report to the National Assembly. Some congregations flaunted the old policy by hiring openly gay clergy, others simply looked the other way to avoid addressing the issue, and some congregations had removed priests for being gay.

The Lutheran CORE - principal group leading the fight against approval - urged ELCA members to direct finances away from Churchwide organizations and toward "faithful ministries within and outside of the ELCA." Lutheran CORE will hold a convention in September to decide on further action, and warned of the possibility of a split from the ELCA. In 2003, when the 2-million member Episcopal Church in the US consecrated its first openly gay Bishop, opponents withdrew to form the more conservative Angelican Church in North America with 100,000 current members.
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