Lutherans Take Unique Approach On Gays
(RNS) The nation's largest Lutheran church body will try to settle the divisive issue of homosexuality by maintaining bans on gay clergy and same-sex unions -- while also allowing churches to break both those rules without threat of discipline.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), with 5 million members, will consider a three-pronged proposal on homosexuality when it meets Aug. 8-14 for its Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla.
But, because traditionalists say the proposals go too far, and progressives say they don't go far enough, the ELCA could reject the proposal and leave Orlando without any major change to its gay policies after spending four years wrestling with the issue.
As a large, middle-America church, the Lutherans are a revealing barometer of U.S. church life. And, if approved, the rules-without-discipline approach would be a novel way for U.S. churches to sidestep the explosive yes-or-no answers on gay issues.
The church's top leader, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, said he hopes the "diverse middle of the church" can help the left and right poles arrive at some kind of consensus.
"Lutherans can live with some ambiguity around these questions, and we will not take the tensions they create as evidence of a divided church," he said in a conference call with reporters, "but a sign of a church that is struggling with what it means ... to be engaged in God's mission in a very complex and ever-changing world."
"I think those on both ends of the spectrum who want absolute clarity coming out of this assembly will be disappointed," said the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa.
"I think we're going to live in the murky middle of struggling to understand the will of God" (Eckstrom, religionjournalonline, August 3, 2005).