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Lutherans nix gay unions, sexually active gay clergy

No surprise here either, though on blessing gay unions, they actually punted.

Leaders of the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America narrowly rejected on Friday the ordination of sexually active gay and lesbian clergy during a biennial national assembly in Florida. Assembly members voted 503 to 490 against a provision that would have accepted gays and lesbians who are in “life-long, committed and faithful” relationships into the clergy.

The vote maintains the church’s current policy of ordaining unmarried clergy only if they are celibate.

It came after dozens of Lutheran gay-rights activists dressed in white shirts and rainbow stoles filed to the front of the meeting room and took up positions around the podium in what one assembly member objected to as “disruptive and intimidating behavior” but another characterized as a “silent witness” to the group’s decision-making.A motion to eject the demonstrators failed.

“I feel if we ask them to leave they will refuse and we will have something here we don’t want,” said one unidentified member.

On a second hot-button issue, the assembly by a 2-1 margin passed a resolution — criticized by many as ambiguous — addressing the blessing of gay and lesbian unions. Interpreted by some as allowing same-sex unions and by others as maintaining the status quo, the resolution keeps the denomination’s stand against official church blessings of gay and lesbian unions.

But the resolution also gives some assurance to local parishes and clergy that they will not be penalized for performing blessing ceremonies, stating that the church will “trust in and continue dialogue with pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons.”

The vote was 670 for the resolution and 323 against. An early attempt to more explicitly approve same-sex unions failed by a nearly identical vote, 665-334. John Brooks, the ELC spokesman, said this is the first time the church-wide assembly has addressed same-sex union blessings, and that the effect is negligible.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding