Lutherans (ELCA) welcome openly gay pastors
From the New York Times. With a laying on of hands, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors who had until recently been barred from the church’s ministry.
The ceremony at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco was the first of several planned since the denomination took a watershed vote at its convention last year to allow noncelibate gay ministers in committed relationships to serve the church.
“Today the church is speaking with a clear voice,” the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, one of the seven gay pastors participating in the ceremony, said at a news conference just before it began. “All people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, known as the E.L.C.A., with 4.6 million members, is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve in the ranks of its clergy — an issue that has caused wrenching divisions for it as well as for many other denominations.
Since the church voted last summer to allow noncelibate gay clergy members to serve, 185 congregations have taken the two consecutive votes required to leave the denomination, said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, a spokeswoman for the church, citing a tally that she said was updated monthly. There are 10,396 congregations nationwide.
The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ also allow gay ministers. And the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s general assembly voted at its convention earlier this month to do so, though the vote will become church law only if is ratified by a majority of the church’s 173 regional presbyteries. Two smaller Lutheran denominations, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, do not ordain ministers in same-sex relationships.