ELCA adopts social statement on human sexuality
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), currently the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States with over 4 million members adopts social statement on human sexuality, opening its ministry to partnered gay and lesbian Lutherans.
The nation's largest Lutheran denomination Friday reversed a long-standing ban on the appointment of non-celibate gays to the clergy, becoming the second major Christian group in a month to liberalize policies governing who may minister the faith.
Leaders of the 4.6-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, gave local congregations the authority to choose ministers or lay leaders who may be in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."
The decision follows a similar action last month by officers of the Episcopal Church, who lifted a de facto ban on the consecration of partnered gay bishops.
Theologians and church analysts said both votes could influence other Protestant denominations -- including Presbyterians and United Methodists -- that are struggling to reconcile conflicts over homosexuality and the Bible.
One scholar characterized the move by the two groups as a "watershed moment in American Christianity" that could further divide churches already laboring to stem the flight of traditionalists.
"Those who have been actively campaigning for a change of this sort in the other mainline denominations will see this as a sign that they should intensify their efforts," Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said in an e-mail. "For those of us who have opposed this on Biblical grounds, it is bound to reinforce the sense that we are no longer welcome in the mainline."
Conservatives in the Lutheran church condemned the decisions by the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, saying the actions on gay and lesbian clergy run counter to Biblical teachings about marriage.
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