UPDATED AT 2:50 PST
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the fifth largest church in the country, is voting today on three provisions relating to its gay congregants. An AP article discusses the provisions and the debate that went on yesterday.
The three provisions would:
*Affirm the church ban on ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians, but allow bishops and church districts called synods to seek an exception for a particular candidate if that person is in a committed relationship and meets other conditions.
This article was defeated 503 to 490 by the delegates. Even had it obtained a majority it would not have passed as this article woudl have amended the ELCA’s bylaws and required a 2/3 vote.
*Uphold the denomination’s prohibition against blessing of same-sex unions, but give bishops and pastors discretion in deciding how to minister to gay couples.
During the vote, language was stripped away that might have given local pastors leeway leaving a simple confirmation of the anti-gay marriage position of the church and placing trust in pastors to minister to gay people. At this time I haven’t been able to find the vote count for stripping the language supporting flexibility.
*Call for unity, even though congregants disagree on the issue
This article has passed by a wide margin.
While I’m not overfond of afirming the ban or upholding the prohibition, in practical terms the ELCA is acknowledging that many of their member churches want to bless same-sex unions and have openly gay clergy that are in committed relationships. These allow those portions of the country that are more open to gay people to follow the dictates of their conscience without fear of punishment from the national body. Basically, its a step.
Of particular interest in yesterday’s debate:
The Rev. Sara Gausmann of the Lower Susquehanna Synod in Pennsylvania said easing the rules would make it impossible for her to teach children to follow Christian sexual ethics. Many delegates said the truly Christian approach would be to convince homosexuals to change their sexual orientation.
”This debate is not about emotional pleas for love and acceptance,” said Kara Felde of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod. ”It’s about what Scripture says.”
Advocates for full inclusion of gay clerics attempted to counter these arguments by expressing the pain of what they called rejection by their own church.
His voice cracking with emotion, Timothy Mumm of the South-Central Wisconsin Synod said he became suicidal after years in therapy trying to rid himself of his attraction to men. He said a ”faithful, caring pastor” helped him accept his homosexuality.
This debate highlights the importance of continuing to speak out against the lies perpetuated by ex-gay ministries. The distortions, bogus statistics, and fraudulent claims of “hundreds of thousands” are what allow otherwise decent people to say the “the truly Christian approach would be to convince homosexuals to change their sexual orientation”.
For every Sara Gausmann out there, we need to have a Timothy Mumm. And we need to find a way to provide the Mumms of the world with accurate information to counter the false witness of the anti/ex-gay movement.
MY OPINION ADDED:
While it is disappointing that the ELCA did not make any favorable change this year, it is encouraging that nearly half the delegates voted to allow the ordination of gay persons in a committed relationship (currently they only allow celebate gays to be ministers).
Remember, it has only been 36 years since Stonewall.