Assuming everything passes. An Evangelical Lutheran Church of America task force has recommended that the church recognize same-sex unions and approve the ordination of gays and lesbians living in those unions. ELCA already ordains gay and lesbian pastors, but current rules require them to be celibate — the unfortunate circular logic necessary when you expect clergy to be chaste but won’t recognize their marriages.
“The task force agreed that this church cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless this church is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships,” the report said.
Unfortunately, that recognition isn’t spelled out as marriage, but it leaves the option for local churches to choose how they will bless unions. And they come about as close as one can to the M-word without actually saying it.
The task force stopped short of recommending a liturgical rite for gay unions or using the word marriage to describe them. But, the report said “most of the task force members believe that ways can be found within local congregations to surround the commitments of such couples with prayer.”
Rev. Peter Strommen, the Minnesota pastor who served as chair of the 15-member task force, said a context for public promises would help the church better define those relationships.
“Given we have no clarity or structure, we feel it’s important for there to be an equivalent of public accountability,” Strommen said.
The recommendations also urge flexibility in allowing individual churches to disagree with the policy, and I’m sure there will be those that do. But this “out” should blunt some of the opposition when the vote is taken at the Churchwide Assembly in August. And it sounds like the Assembly will be receptive:
The debate on gay clergy in the ELCA took on greater urgency in 2007 when Rev. Bradley Schmeling, an Atlanta pastor, was removed from the clergy roster after he told his bishop he was in a relationship with a man. In August of that year, the assembly urged its bishops to refrain from disciplining gay ministers who are in committed same-sex relationships.