Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships

Ed. (Banescu) Yet another Christian church deviates from the Gospel.

Reuters | August 11, 2007

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Homosexual Lutheran clergy who are in sexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said on Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in “faithful committed same-gender relationships.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

“The Church … has just said ‘Do not do punishments’,” said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within the church. “That is huge.”

. . . more

42 thoughts on “Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships

  1. Mr. Banescu,

    You note that “another Christian church deviates”. I have argued here before that the term “Christian” is used to broadly, and that we ought to be more sparing with it. I understand it’s use in the broadest sense, and why it is used that way. However, as the “Mainline” disintegrates, I think it is time for a more “traditional” use of the term.

    This is why I generally try not to refer to Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc. as “Christian”. Individuals may be, but not the broad thing also called a “church”. Individuals in these “churches” are Christian in spite of, not because of, their “church”. IMO…

  2. As a member of the Luthern church, this vote is disappointing. But it does not actually change anything in the church. See the presiding bishop’s comments in the last paragraph of the ELCA’s press release. It appears that nothing will be officially decided until 2009.

  3. I was grateful for the link in this article to Father Thomas Hopko’s book, “Christian Faith And Same Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections“. We are blessed in the Orthodox Church to have someone like Father Hopko who is at once learned, authoritative, insightful and sensitive.

    His writings make clear that the position of the Orthodox Church is more nuanced and compassionate than some other churches. While it clearly and unequiviocably considers finds same-sex sexual attraction a sinful passion, the Church also rejects harsh condemnation as the solution. Instead Orthodoxy urges loving support for those battling with an unhealthy passion no different than if the problem was alcholism, gambling or marital infidelity.

    I was particularly impressed with this statement by Father Hopko:

    The homosexual Christian is called to a particularly rigorous battle. His or her struggle is an especially ferocious one. It is not made any easier by the mindless, truly demonic hatred of those who despise and ridicule those who carry this painful and burdensome cross; nor by the mindless, equally demonic affirmation of homosexual activity by its misguided advocates and enablers.

  4. Note # 2:

    Bruce, you don’t think this really makes a difference do you? This is how the radicals (i.e. non Christians) push their agenda. Obfuscate until the “conservatives” are so thoroughly confused they think nothing has happened…

  5. note #3:

    Ah Dean, you really can not separate the Faith from liberalism can you? Michael seems to think their is hope for you – I, humanly at least, don’t think there is any for you.

    Is it possible for you not think of ANYTHING other in than in usual liberal terms?

    Fr. Jacobse, is this guy FOR REAL, or is he a figment of your imagination? Really, he just can’t be for real…

  6. Lutheran Congregation Keeps Gay Pastor

    Associated Press Writer

    With hugs and cheers Sunday, members of Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church celebrated the pastor at the center of a battle over the treatment of gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
    The support for the Rev. Bradley Schmeling at St. John’s Lutheran Church came a day after the national assembly of the ELCA in Chicago urged bishops to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule. The assembly’s action fell short of permitting ordained gays churchwide.

    Schmeling called the assembly’s vote a “crack in the dam” and told the more than 100 people gathered in the St. John’s sanctuary that the congregation had “given its gift” to the ELCA.

    “The hard work, the struggle, has really finally made a difference for years to come,” he said.

    Schmeling became a focus of the ELCA’s debate over gay clergy when he was removed from the church’s clergy roster last year after he told his bishop that he was in a relationship with a man.

    A disciplinary committee decided it had no choice but to defrock Schmeling and order him out of the pulpit due to a policy that excludes gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in relationships from the ordained ministry.

    However, the committee also suggested that the church consider reinstating gay clergy forced to step down because of their relationships. And it concluded that, aside from his relationship, Schmeling had proved he is worthy of his title.

    After Saturday’s vote, he will continue to be pastor at St. John’s at the request of the congregation, although his name will stay off the clergy list.

    Schmeling said the removal of his name from the clergy roster will only present problems if he seeks a job with another congregation—and he said he has no plans to leave St. John’s.

    “On a day-to-day basis, nothing changes here,” he said.

    Bishop Ronald B. Warren, head of the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, has said he plans to take no further action against St. John’s or Schmeling.


  7. JBL, Actually, there was no change in policy. The resolution only prays, urges and encourages… To the extent this influences some local congregations, as in the Atlanta case, then this is troubling. But it is not a change in policy. I am hopeful that official church policy will not change.

    Christopher, is the Catholic Church Christian, in your opinion?

  8. Dean, I sure don’t have any problem with Fr. Hopko. For once, you are not be “liberal” IMO. It didn’t hurt too much did it?

  9. Note 9:

    #2 Bruce there was a change in ELCA policy.

    Actually, it is, as denomination as a whole has chosen to *formally* look the other way at this sexual deviancy. As the radicals rightly claim, it is a “hole in the dam”. One has to give up one’s fundamental character of being a “Christian” to even come to such a stance or ‘policy’.

    As far as the Catholic Church, yes IMO would say it meets a minimal level of Christianity to be called Christian. Do you believe otherwise?

  10. notes 10 & 11:

    Read between the lines. Dean is of course characterizing certain responses as less than compassionate, which he of course does not identify. If he did, it would be the standard liberal boiler plate he always posts here…

  11. Just last month a gay man was beaten to death in broad daylight at a recreational area just outside Sacramento, where I live. The perpetrators were two young men belonging to Sacramento’s large Russian and Ukrainian Pentacostal community. This incident highlights once again the unfortunate tendency of some to use a teaching their Church as an excuse to be intolerant, hateful and violent.

    What is impressive about Father Hopko is that he is able to help us understand the position of the Church, that same-gender sexual attraction is a harmful sin of passion, while also reminding us that we have a duty to be compassionate and supportive to those dealing with these impulses, never hateful or cruel.

    In the past, what I have recoiled from, is what I interpreted as implied bigotry and malice in statements by some religious figures against homosexuality. But there is neither of those in the Orthodox Church, only a consistent, ever-present compassion that seeks to save a sinner from going down a harmful path, while offering him the reassurance of a loving Father in heaven to whom he can always pray for help.

  12. Christopher writes: “As far as the Catholic Church, yes IMO would say it meets a minimal level of Christianity to be called Christian.”

    How kind of you. Could you please inform the rest of us what criteria you’re using to define a “True Christian”, since there are some Protestants making the same claim about their being the “true church”, and they seem to think the Orthodox are a bunch of idolatrous blasphemers (along with the Catholics, of course).

  13. Note 14:

    Ah, there it is – the particular instance of alleged “Christian” bigotry. Sorry Dean, but your liberal concern not to appear as anything less fully compassionate is liberal hubris, not Christianity.

  14. Note 15:

    How kind of you. Could you please inform the rest of us what criteria you’re using to define a “True Christian”

    Me thinks you protest too much. I am not sure what “True” adds to the term Christian, perhaps you could expand. That being said, as I said in the first post, the term “Christian” now has such a broad meaning, and is used by so many who are obviously diametrically opposed to each other about the meaning of Christ, His Church, and even basic morality. What does it mean to call a liberal Episcopalian a “Christian”? Is the term so empty it simply means whatever the person wants it to mean?

    A “church” who is so confused about God, Christ, His Church, and basic morality that they embrace sexual deviancy, it just does not make a lot of sense to call them “Christian”.

    What would be your criteria?

  15. JamesK – nice summary of what I was getting at when I asked Christopher if he thought Catholics were Christian. Sure, if a church strays so far from the basic tenets of Christianity, then one might question whether it is Christian. But to suggest Methodists, Lutherans or Episcopalians are not Christian (and Catholics barely fit the definition) is ludicrous.

  16. Note 18:

    I think I am following you. However, you have a particularly “protestant” way of denoting dogmatic (and ethical, ecclesiological, etc.) “disputes”. Actually, not even a classical protestant stance, but a “liberal” stance. For example, the ethical (what is sexual morality, for example) are already settled, and not a “dispute” at all to traditional Christians (this includes the Orthodox, RC, and most protestants who have ever lived). True, ecclesiology has been a thorn in the side of traditional Christians, but you seem to think there is deep disputes where there is none. As C.S Lewis remarked, the traditional Christians in all these “sects” agree on far more than the disagree.

    Also, you are dead wrong when you say:

    None of us were alive 2,000-6,000 years ago, and we are not privy to the minds of the writers of the Gospels or even the fathers of the Church.

    The Church, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, exists exactly to “put us in the mind of the Apostles/Fathers”. The fact that you don’t understand this reveals how much of a liberal protestant mindset you have. Perhaps you think human nature has “evolved” since the Apostles, or we are merely product of our circumstances and take a nominalist view of language, and thus really believe we can’t know the “mind” of someone no longer living. As Chesterton put it, Tradition is the democracy of those who have lived, as well as those who will live, and not merely the oligarchy of those who happen to be alive (paraphrasing from memory here).

    In fact, nominalism seems to be your modus operandi and first instinct:

    I am proposing a realist definition, or use, of the term Christian. To simply say it means “one who’s Diety is Christ” begs the question, “Who is Christ”? Clearly, He can not be who a liberal Episcopalian says he is, while at the same time being the Person who the Orthodox, RC, and traditional protestants say he is.

    Finally, you clearly have not availed yourself of a basic catechism (I recommended Clark Carlton’s “The Faith”) if you think I have asserted Dogmatic errors on the part of my Bishop’s…LOL!…You brought a smile to my face…

  17. Note 19:

    Sure, if a church strays so far from the basic tenets of Christianity, then one might question whether it is Christian.

    This is what I am proposing we admit, that Episcopalian’s, ELCA, etc. are actually Unitarians, and not Christians at all. I spent some time as an Episcopalian in the early nineties, and I can tell you, most (but not all) are no more Christian than the Dalai Llama. It just does not make sense to refer to these people (or their overtly apostatizing sect) as “Christian” – the word means more than that…

  18. Bruce, What is Christian? The Nicean Creed articulated by the first two Ecumenical Councils defines the minimal belief necessary to call oneself a Christian.

    I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
    Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
    And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
    And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    The following five Ecumenical Councils further defined what is necessary to believe about the person of Jesus Christ, especially that He is fully God and fully man without mixture or confusion.

    The RCC rewrote the Creed to serve the political ends of the Frankish kings. Most Protestant denominations have departed from belief in significant parts of the Creed and most of the Councils. The U.S. Episcopal Church is clearly apostate as an organization. It is an open question if any of the other organizations you mention conform to the requirements any longer although there are certainly people within those organizations that do.

    There is an unfortunate tendency to split belief and action into separate organizations in the west. Those that rely solely on belief alone often become arrogant, hardhearted and cruel. Thus the beating of homosexuals and other despicable acts. When that occurs the individuals have departed from Christianity. Any organization that supports such action has departed from Christianity.

    Those that rely on compassion often become sloppy sentimentalists and universalists. Thus the refusal to recognize sin as a block to salvation. When that occurs, the organization has departed from Christianity.

    The Orthodox Church keeps the balance, although not all of us individually do.

    Still the overriding question is the one our Lord Himself put to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” The Scriptural answer is “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Anyone who believes and attempts to conform his life in obedience to the Incarnate Son of God can be considered a Christian individually. There is quite a lot to the obedience part that includes accepting Mary as Theotokos, the God bearer. The Scripture is also quite clear that merely recognizing Jesus as Lord, is not sufficient for salvation. Caring for those in need, is also required. The combination of right action and right belief is necessary.

    We would all be better off if we defined the term Christian more narrowly. There are many who claim the status of Christian as indivuduals and organizations that are not, leading many astray. Ultimately, it is not our decision, but the decision of Jesus Christ that counts.

  19. When we go to church do we really want to know about our pastors love life (Not really), so if they are gay, and are still spreading the holy word then Yay for that.

    When i was attending DeVry University for the first time i had a gay Math Teacher in a night class and it was but 5 of us and 3 of them hardly showwed up, and this one guy was freaking paranoid up and down of being one on one with him when no one else was in the room.

    He would say things like “that Fu%king faggot is going to try and Rape me” and other things of that matter. He would say nothing but horrible things (of course the teacher couldnt hear him), and i finally told him to shut the f up, because it was annoying.

    And their was a night where i was really stuck on some homework, because i reek at math, and he stayed a bit after class to help me, and he had the best chance of any to try and pull something, but he was geniunely helpful, and didnt pull anything.

    Most gay people i know are passionate about their work, and helping others (its all they have really), so i think that its ok that they are allowing this, and not categorizing all gays as lustful for sexual gratification animals, because they are not all like that.

  20. Note 22, Brent, since you do not even attempt to apply Christian analysis why should we read your comments on ELCA and gays?

    ELCA claims to be Christian. Christianity has a theology and a long history.
    The significance of a gay pastor is that it is a violation of the teaching of the Christian church.

    Since you are not a Christian, why are you posting here? Analysis which does not arise from the framework of the Christian faith is pointless.

    You have just earned troll status.

  21. Note 24:

    Missourian, did you not say a while back that you had recently joined a Lutheran church? Is it an ELCA church? If so, what do you plan to do?

  22. note 25:

    The above question is not meant to be confrontational in the least – I was just wondering if this had an impact on you directly…

  23. Brent, looking at it from a traditional Christian perspective most of us are “lustful for sexual gratification animals” whether we are homosexual or hetrosexual. Unfortunately for those with a homosexual ideation, there is no appropriate way of physical sexual fullfilment. Only within marriage is appropriate sexual activity possible.

    I only began to understand this reality about half way through my life. That is when I began to see the dehumanizing consequences in people’s lives that result from licentious behavior. Nothing good comes from it. Unfortunately, marriage, in and of itself, is no panacea either. Self-discipline, self-sacrafice and repentance are necessary.

  24. Note 28

    where has the Lutheran Church deviated from the Creed?

    Good question! Not obvious on first pass is it? I think the reason is that protestants (certainly “liberal” protestants, but traditional ones sometimes also) focus on the “top” part of the creed. Looking at the “bottom”, we notice this:

    And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    Also important to this part is the part in the “top” where we profess “…according to the Scriptures”. Sexual deviancy, or as the NKJ puts it “Sexual Immorality” is without any doubt rejected in the Scripture, in the Church, in the lives of Christians. This really is not arguable. The liberal tendency to deconstruct, and otherwise twist Scripture and Dogmatic history is obviously a vain attempt to “interpret away”. Simply do a search at Bible Gateway for “Sexual Immorality” or any of the other parts of the NT that reference “ethics” for Christians and the letter and spirit of the text is quite plain.

    Where the ELCA is in direct contradiction of the Creed is the rejection of the Church and Scripture. I am even using “Church” here very loosely, to encompass what some call the “Great Tradition”, that puts aside the thorny issues of ecclesiology…

  25. Christopher, I don’t think it’s so much an effort to “interpret away” various passages (although this is done in the dogma and creeds of every denomination) as it is a realization that drawing the good out of evil is a complex business. We acknowledge, for example, that war is sometimes necessary, though not a positive good to be embraced at all times for any reason whatsoever. If it were, we would be more inclined to take up arms in wars of conquest more frequently.

    This is not so much permissiveness as it is a question of how we draw the most good out of fallen human nature. We cannot demand a man scale a mountain before he learns to walk. While it’s all well and good to always preach the ideals of human behavior, there are times where we have to determine if forcing any particular virtue on a person will cause greater vices than the person started with. It’s better that a man remain wealthy and generous than to expect him to take a vow of poverty and find only that he has become cruel and stingy.

    This is a sensitive business, one best undertaken by a spiritual advisor, but it reflects an awareness of fallen humanity, not a denial of it.

  26. note 30:

    James, you have made a fundamental error here. Pastoral care is only possible because the “ideal” exists (or in this case God). What the ELCA, the mainline, “liberal” Christians, etc. have done is mistake compassion for principals, or God. The ELCA has given up the Church, an thus, they can not really being “sensitive” or “generous” or “compassionate” because they have forgotten what that means.

    Part of you nominalist foundation – you are having trouble seeing the difference between principals and practice. You come across as Fr. Jacobse said “a fence sitter”.

  27. JamesK and Christopher before you start pontificating on Lutheran understanding of Scripture, Creeds, etc. You should familiarize yourself with the terms quantenus and quia and how these terms effect Lutheran interpretation of the symbolic books and their relationship to Scripture.

  28. Note 32:

    Why? What do they have to do with “gay clergy”? To get to “gay clergy” you have to give up any Christian notion at all of “Scripture”, “Confessions”, and the like. Perhaps you should re-read what we have been discussing here…

  29. Bruce wrote:

    JBL, Actually, there was no change in policy. The resolution only prays, urges and encourages… To the extent this influences some local congregations, as in the Atlanta case, then this is troubling. But it is not a change in policy. I am hopeful that official church policy will not change.

    Bruce don’t fall victim to the semantics game. The policy was changed when Bishops were encouraged not to enforce current policy. What the ELCA leadership did was the equivalent of a town council saying we’re not going to rescind law “A”, but we’re not going to enforce it either. Do you think anyone in that town will follow that particular law?

    What happened in Atlanta is the first of many similar events that will happen in the ELCA leading up to 2009. By the time the review comes about it will be irrelevant because open homosexual pastors will be the norm in the synod.

  30. 33
    What the ELCA convention did is not the beliefs of the entire synod. In fact look at how close the vote actually was in the end. There are still a number of Lutheran congregations in the ELCA that are confessional who are struggling to uphold historic understandings of Christianity within their community. Christopher you need to narrow your brush when painting groups with your generalities. The issues are a bit more complex than your broad whitewash strokes.

  31. Note 35:

    Christopher you need to narrow your brush when painting groups with your generalities. The issues are a bit more complex than your broad whitewash strokes.

    JBL, you need to broaden your brush when painting groups with your nuances. The issues are at the core rather simple – and you are making things needlessly complex….:) 🙂 🙂

    Look, if your not going to participate and tell us what argue what your minimum is for the term “Christian” then don’t berate us for doing so.

    I argue that, despite “There are still a number of Lutheran congregations in the ELCA that are confessional who are struggling to uphold historic understandings of Christianity within their community” the ELCA, taken as the ELCA, is no longer “Christian” in any meaningful sense.

    With this logic, I could still be an Episcopalian, as there are individuals and even “congregations” who “struggle for understandings of Christianity”.

    Shoot, there is even a organization for “Christian” Unitarian Universalists. So what???

  32. JBL,

    was this a Dean impression or joke on your part:

    The issues are a bit more complex than your broad whitewash strokes.

    If so I apologize – I thought you were serious…:) :0 🙂

  33. Note 36. Christopher writes:

    With this logic, I could still be an Episcopalian, as there are individuals and even “congregations” who “struggle for understandings of Christianity”.

    Careful here Christopher because in some cases there are. I know an Episcopalian priest in Ft. Myers who stays in a conservative parish because of his people. His Bishop is against him, liberal priests are against him, but this man is faithful. It’s one of the most prominent and oldest parishes in the city so he’s protected despite the assaults, but this is a good man, and yes, an orthodox Christian.

    You can say he should just quit, but in some cases it is not that easy.

  34. Bruce, I cannot answer your question in detail because I don’t know enough about current Lutheran theology. My over all impression is that the Missouri Synod is more tradtional. In general, Protestants depart from the Creed in their understanding of Church.

  35. Note 25, Christopher, you have me confused with someone else

    No, I did not say that I had recently joined a Lutheran Church. My particular plans are private, however.

  36. How do we think about the Episcopalian’s, or in this case the ELCA? Do we use the term “Christian” as an adjective to describe them? Yes, there are orthodox and traditional Christian’s under their umbrella (even whole congregations possibly), but do we call the whole body “Christian”?

    I don’t think any of you would say the Unitarian Universalist “church” is “Christian”, but following the implied logic you would have to because of this group:

    This is a serious group by the way, as I had contact with them 20 years or so.

    What I am trying to flush out here is some sort of minimum. Clearly, the mainline is moving toward UU as a whole. At what point do we acknowledge this?

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