After twenty-five years of deliberation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council has abolished its anti-gay policies, effective immediately.Following from discussions at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last summer, the ELCA will now allow people in same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) human beings are no longer considered abominations but blessed church members with full standing. Same-sex partners and families can now fully participate in the ELCA Pension Plan.
The Church Council met 9-12 April in Chicago. It also authorized a rite to recognize the ministries of GLBT pastors who have already been ordained as "Extraordinary Lutheran Ministires."
The ELCA changed two sections in its rules governing ministry removing elibacy for thsoe who are homosexual. The new section read:
An ordained minister who is in a publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationship is expected to live in fidelity to his or her partner, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a publicly accountable relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful.
A passage on the sexual matters associated with clergy has also been changed to recognize same-sex relationships:
… chastity and abstinence are required outside of marriage or outside publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships, and chastity and fidelity are required within marriage or within such same-gender relationships.
The document revisions immediately put into practice what the Lutherans decided last summer, so the outcry among opponents has been muted. Indeed, only one member of the council abstained from the vote.
Keith A. Hunsinger, council member, Oak Harbor, Ohio, who said he does not agree with the sexuality decisions made in August 2009, announced April 11 that he had abstained on each vote on the documents.
He explained that he didn’t believe that the first drafts of the documents released last fall embodied the full range of decisions made at the 2009 assembly. “My conscience won’t allow me to vote for any of these documents, but as a member of the board of directors, I can’t vote against the will of the churchwide assembly,” he told the ELCA News Service.
However, Hunsinger told the council that the final forms of each document reflected “the breadth and depth” of the decisions, including the fact that “we agreed to live under a big tent,” and that multiple voices would be heard. “Because those documents now said that, I feel my ideas and I are still welcome in the ELCA,” he said.
Those who disagree with the actions have formed a new, smaller North American Lutheran Church. It is worth noting that the only reason for the creation of this Lutheran body is that gay and lesbian ministers are being accepted.