Lutheran Church Passes Historic Resolution Regarding Gay Clergy


On the last day of its annual meeting at Navy Pier in Chicago, the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution from Chicago’s Bishop Paul Landahl urging bishops to refrain from disciplining gay ministers who are in committed same-sex relationships.

LutheransThe Chicago Tribune reports: “After emotional testimony on the biblical interpretation of homosexuality, church leaders passed Landahl’s resolution by a vote of 538-431. Saturday’s resolution surprised some in the church because it came a day after leaders defeated a measure that would have ended the ban on non-celibate gay clergy…The renewed debate on homosexual clergy in the ELCA stems from the case of Rev. Bradley Schmeling (above), an Atlanta pastor who was removed from the clergy roster in July after he told his bishop he was in a relationship with a man. The new measure prevents his bishop from seeking further disciplinary action, but does not re-institute Schmeling’s status.”

Said Schmeling: “I’m grateful the resolution passed, because now no one else will have to go through what I went through. What I hope we’ve done is provide some relief for others in the church who now may not face discipline. And they can live with a little less fear and a little more confidence that the church isn’t out to get them. Even though we’ve got a long way to go to get an overall change in the policy, maybe we can take a deep breath and we don’t have to be so afraid anymore.”

Conservative church leaders, however, said the historic vote would open the door to “chaos” as it appears to contradict the policy forbidding the ordination of gay ministers.

Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships [reuters]
Lutherans ask bishops to keep gay clergy in ministry [chicago tribune]


  1. WizardBoy says

    While some may scoff at what wasn’t done by this Lutheran body, I would point out that this is monumental. The discussion of “sexuality” has been ongoing in this and its predecessor Lutheran bodies (there was a merger some time back) for many many years.

    This is a progressive step for those of us gay men and women who are mainstream Lutheran. There is a strong conservative element in this church body. The resolution passed narrowly. And there is an off-shoot Lutheran group (“Word Alone”) which doesn’t even believe in talking to Episcopalians less they “dilute” Lutheranism!

    In any case, there’s a long way to go, but the future looks brighter than it did 5 years ago.

  2. Zeke says

    Actually Wizard, 538-431 would not be considered “narrowly passed”.

    Frankly I think this vote is only going to add more confusion to the debate and will only serve to strengthen the conservatives’ argument that the church’s lack of decisiveness is even worse that going one way or the other.

    How can you pass a resolution that says, “We’re keeping a particular prohibition but we urge people not to enforce it”?

    Perhaps I’m spoiled in my Open and Affirming UCC world but I see very little to get excited about with this weak and confusing directive.

  3. Iko says

    Brilliant! Stay closeted through Seminary (or whatever the Lutheran equivalent is), then come out once you’ve been ordained without fear of repercussion.

    Another fine example of the irrationality of religion.

  4. WizardBoy says

    I must have mis-read the vote, I thought it was closer. My apologies.

    One does not have to be closeted in seminary — we have them in the Lutheran church, 4 years POST-college. As far back as 1970 there were openly gay seminarians, but we had to promise to be celibate (something not asked in the same way of straight single seminarians!). There are many gay clergy in the Lutheran church. Many openly gay. The debate centers on openly gay clergy in committed relationships.

    This is not a perfect situation. And many of us wish this had been resolved years ago. But it is a step in the right direction.

    The resolution still leaves much up to the local Synod (like a diocese). It is a complicated issue in a church that has a conservative past.

    There are others more “liberal” in their stance. This issue has divided American Episcopalians. And the RC church comes nowhere near acknowledging that there are gay clergy (do they?). The three of these denominations are more similar than not.

    And falling church attendance is not limited to Lutherans. It certainly is not mainly because of the gay clergy issue.

  5. MACBOOKGUY says

    As a voting member at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, and as someone supporting the Goodsoil/LCNA movement, this was huge to us. Even by 100 votes, it was a win. Even if it is only words of consolation, the assembly backed the measure – even if narrowly. This will also send a huge message to the Human Sexuality Taskforce that Lutherans – even by narrow margin – are open to change. This resolution never would have passed in 05 and hopefully 09 will be even better.