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ELCA Convention approves allowing homosexuals as pastors

August 21, 2009 - Courtsey of World Faith

ELCA Assembly Opens Ministry to Partnered Gay and Lesbian Lutherans


MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) - The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical

Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted today to open the ministry of the

church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living

in committed relationships.

The action came by a vote of 559-451 at the highest legislative body

of the 4.6 million member denomination. Earlier the assembly also

approved a resolution committing the church to find ways for

congregations that choose to do so to "recognize, support and hold

publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships,"

though the resolution did not use the word "marriage."

The actions here change the church's policy, which previously

allowed gays and lesbians into the ordained ministry only if they

remained celibate.

Throughout the assembly, which opened Aug. 17, the more than 1,000

voting members have debated issues of human sexuality. On Wednesday they

adopted a social statement on the subject as a teaching tool and policy

guide for the denomination.

The churchwide assembly of the ELCA is meeting here Aug. 17-23 at

the Minneapolis Convention Center. About 2,000 people are participating,

including 1,045 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly

is "God's work. Our hands."

Before discussing the thornier issues of same-gender unions in the

ordained ministry, the assembly approved, by a vote of 771-230, a

resolution committing the church to respect the differences of opinions

on the matter and honor the "bound consciences" of those who disagree.

During the hours of discussion, led by ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S.

Hanson, the delegates paused several times each hour for prayer,

sometimes as a whole assembly, sometimes in small groups around the

tables where the voting members of the assembly sat, debated and cast

their votes.

Discussion here proved that matters of sexuality will be contentious

throughout the church. A resolution that would have reasserted the

church's current policy drew 344 votes, but failed because it was

rejected by 670 of the voting members.