Same-sex unions accepted by Evangelical Lutherans
By Christopher Quinn
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination previously allowed pastors to be gay, but only if celibate. Delegates also approved a resolution which will allow but not require pastors to bless same-sex unions.
The moves were welcomed by advocates of full gay inclusion, but traditionalists were dismayed. Many traditionalists speaking at the Churchwide Assembly predicted it would split the denomination, much as more conservative Episcopal congregations have left that denomination after the installation of a gay bishop.
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John’s Lutheran in Druid Hills and Bob Gibeling of Atlanta have lobbied for the changes.
Schmeling is gay, has been in a relationship and the denomination removed him from the list of approved pastors in 2007. However, the church kept him as pastor and the denomination took no action against St. John’s.
“This is certainly an important step in the process that I’ve been looking forward to and praying for for a very long time,” he said from Minneapolis.
The wording of the resolution will not require a pastor to perform the blessing, but will allow congregations comfortable doing so to act. The denomination has yet to work out details of how the ceremony must take place.
Gibeling said: “I’ve been a life-long member at Redeemer Lutheran Church, and I was never comfortable asking my church to bless my relationship. This offers great hope to me that when I find a future life-long partner, my own beloved congregation will want to bless that union.”
The Episcopal Church has accepted gay pastors in recent years. Other mainline and evangelical Protestant churches, including conservative Lutherans such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, do not affirm gay leaders or relationships.
It looks that Lutherans went beyond Episcopalians in their decision today to move toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. Time will tell what the fallout from todays's vote will turn out to be. For now prayer seems the best idea of all!
"...Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth, with all peace. Where it is corrupt,purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.