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.

Lutherans Reject Easing Gay Clergy Rules (AP)

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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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian J. says:

    The title “Lutherans” is misleading to an extent, as there are three synods of Lutheranism, with the ELC toward the more evangelical and the Missouri Synod holding down the more traditional end (almost Catholic, actually) and the Wisconsin synod in between.

    A lot of Lutherans from other synods wouldn’t even call the ELC as real Lutherans.

  2. hln says:

    Brian hit it right on the nose. The LCMS is the “strictest” of the Lutheran denominations and would not take kindly to being lumped with the Evangelicals on this one.
    Major major doctrine disparities.


  3. Bithead says:

    I speak, in this case, as a lifelong Lutheran, heartsick at seeing the damage the PC crowd has managed to inflict.

    It strikes me that all this argument within the Lutheran church is not needed. What these people are arguing about, is what they beleive.

    What are they arguing about? The church’s position on homosexuality, runs afoul of their own. INstead of finding a church whose teachings are more compatiable with their own thinking on the matter, they try to change the Church from within. This action is called ‘self-justification’.

    The chruch, for it’s part, has stated it’s posiution on the matter, rather flatly, for around 2000 years, commencing with Paul, and others.

    Luther, some 1400 years later reaffirmed the words of Paul in actions and words which later turned out to be foundational to the Lutheran Church.

    The argument then, is over the question of “Do we, as a church now chose to reject Paul, and Martin Luther, and their teachings?”.

    It has always amazed me how much foundation can be removed by a few PC malcontents, particularly those trying to re-fashion the church in their own image. The claim is they’re working for tolerance and love. In truth, the two have very little to do with each other, in fact usually working in opposite directions. Love often rejects certain behavior, rather than tolerating it.

    On my own blog, for years, I have had a byline:

    “Remember; those who tolerate everything, stand for nothing. What do YOU stand for?”

    They’re asking Lutherans to reject the church and it’s teachings… in essence, to stop standing for the church.

    For my part, I will not. My prayer is that the Church will not, either.

  4. Mark Hasty says:

    I’ve written about this matter here, and there is more to come.

  5. Anderson says:

    I’m an ELCA Lutheran, and I confess to being uncertain on what position the church should take re: gays.

    I do know this: Jesus nowhere mentions homosexuality, but is crystal-clear against divorce. Yet nearly every Protestant denomination accepts divorce and allows divorced members to remarry.

    So the singling out of homosexuality seems a bit suspect to me.

    Also, the only clearcut condemnation of homosexuality in the NT is, IIRC, Paul’s in Romans, where he condemns women and men who “unnaturally” reject heterosexual for homosexual practices.

    If homosexuality turns out to be genetically determined, what is this going to say about what’s “unnatural”?

    Christians have been fine with ignoring plenty else in Paul (women’s silence in church, etc.); again, singling out homosexuality is odd.

    So if you are willing to think about the relevant scriptures and not be a fundamentalist (and the ELCA’s are not fundies), then there is at least room to wonder about these things. Bottom line is, it’s going to be between God and the individual whether his or her sexual practices are acceptable.