Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lutheran assembly urges bishops to exercise restraint in disciplining LGBT clergy

Eric Bjorlin, an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) blogger, reports that the ELCA Churchwide Assembly has heavily fudged things, referred a whole bunch of resolutions to the committee developing a comprehensive statement on sexuality, and asked bishops to exercise restraint in discipling pastors engaged in “faithful committed same-gender relationships."

On one hand, this does not go far as many have wished, and bishops who wish to discipline their clergy may still do so. On the other hand, it is a moral victory for the pro-LGBT side.

In particular, I commend Brad Schmeling to your prayers. Brad's case was one of the main reasons this debate is going on now. A number of former and current ELCA clergy have come out to their denomination, revealing that they kept their relationships secret because of the church's policy. I've heard that some bishops have known about clergy in same-sex relationships and have intentionally refrained from disciplining them; this current statement gives them cover when they do so.

However, Brad's bishop was willing to instate disciplinary proceedings against him. Brad's church seems willing to keep him, even against their bishop's will. But since ELCA's core rules were not amended, he still remains under discipline, and will still technically be removed from the clergy roster. He and his church should continue to be in our prayers.

Edit: San Jose Mercury News (site requires registration) reports that while still off the clergy list, Bradley will stay at St. John's, and his bishop will take no further action. He can't get a job elsewhere, but he says he has no plans to.

With hugs and cheers Sunday, members of Atlanta's oldest Lutheran church celebrated the pastor at the center of a battle over the treatment of gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The support for the Rev. Bradley Schmeling at St. John's Lutheran Church came a day after the national assembly of the ELCA in Chicago urged bishops to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule. The assembly's action fell short of permitting ordained gays churchwide.

Schmeling called the assembly's vote a "crack in the dam" and told the more than 100 people gathered in the St. John's sanctuary that the congregation had "given its gift" to the ELCA.

"The hard work, the struggle, has really finally made a difference for years to come," he said.

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