Lutherans: No Gay Clergy, Yes Gay Marriage
Almost half the delegates at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America convention voted to ordain gay priests in long term relationships and they easily approved a measure to allow gay marriage ceremonies.
Gays and lesbians lashed out after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America rejected a proposal that would have allowed them to serve as clergy in certain cases, saying they felt rejected by their own denomination. The proposal was voted down Friday by delegates attending an ELCA national meeting. It would have affirmed the church ban on ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians but allowed exceptions for candidates in long-term relationships.
Goodsoil, a coalition of Lutheran groups advocating for full inclusion of gays, accused the church of “sacrificing (gays) on the altar of a false and ephemeral sense of unity.” The Rev. G. Scott Cady of the New England Synod said rejecting gays who feel a call to ministry was tantamount to questioning the will of God. “We have vacant pulpits and altars in congregations all over this country, We have people crying out for pastoral care,” he said. “The Holy Spirit has said, `All right, here they are. Here they are.’ Are we going to now say, `Thanks Holy Spirit, but we prefer something else.’”
Delegates voted against the measure 503-490. The proposal needed a two-thirds majority to pass. New Jersey Synod Bishop Roy Riley, president of the ELCA’s Council of Bishops, said the delegates accurately reflected the mood of the 4.9 million-member denomination. “This church is not ready to make major changes in its ordination practices,” he said. “That was the crux, really.”
The gay ordination proposal and two others taken up at the meeting were based on years of work by a denominational task force on sexuality. Delegates overwhelmingly approved another of the panel’s proposals, affirming church unity despite deep differences over homosexuality. A final proposal on blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples was changed before it was approved and its impact remained unclear.
That nearly half of a mainline church’s convention would vote for something that would have been considered anathema twenty or twenty-five years ago is amazing, not a sign of refusal to change.
Cady’s “questioning the will of God” argument is rather amusing. We have, after all, only the word of the individual who says he was “called” that he was indeed “called.” Against that, we have the Bible, a collection of age-old documents that some believe to be divinely inspired–not to mention two thousand years of church teaching–that would seem to argue against this.
One would think that God would order revisions in the seminal documents before sending out the calls to individual priests, just to avoid the confusion. Of course, he does move in mysterious ways unfathomable by mortal men. A true quandry, that.
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