Last month, I noted that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was poised to announce a non-position position on gay clergy. The magazine Christian Century, a more left-leaning periodical than Christianity Today (think New Republic versus National Review), however, is reporting that the ELCA church council has effectively come out in favor of gay ministers. The council has prepared a proposal for this year’s church-wide assembly stating that ELCA bishops should have final authority over whether congregations can have gay ministers in committed relationships. The council followed a January 2005 task force recommendation that exceptions from the church’s current ban on active homosexuals in ministry should be made for qualified gay ministers who are sought by ELCA congregations.
Allowing a “local option” for gay ministers essentially legalizes the whole idea, because bishops will have to have a supply of ministers to meet congregational demand (will they be keeping two lists of available ministers based on sexual orientation one wonders?). In going down this path, ELCA is following the Episcopal church—a body with which it has full communion–by allowing gay ministers. Most conservative commentators saw this coming when ELCA announced its sexuality study a couple years ago.
Paradoxically, the council supported maintaining ELCA’s 1993 ban on same-sex marriage services in ELCA churches.
ELCA’s biennial churchwide assembly will be held August 8-14 in Orlando, where a final ruling is expected.