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Lutherans Debate Partnered LGBT Clergy

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Same-gender partners and their families will be front-and-center at the upcoming national meeting where policy for the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) is voted on every two years.  This year, the body will decide to drop—or keep—the requirement of celibacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clergy.

Lutheran LGBT advocates are organized and are hopeful in light of The Episcopal Church national meeting where LGBT equality was affirmed, as well as the changing landscape of opinions of mainline clergy who increasingly support LGBT rights.

elca vote

2007 Churchwide Assembly (Photo Courtesy of ELCA.org)

Meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., August 17-23, the denomination will vote on a range of topics, but the most high-profile is whether or not to lift the ban on ministers who are in same-gender, committed relationships.

Two proposals impact LGBT people: a 30-page, Social Statement on Human Sexuality and a Recommendation on Ministry Policies.

The Social Statement is the theological and teaching document for the ELCA on constructive social relationships and responsibilities. It lays out the range of good faith opinions among Lutherans on same-gender committed relationships and asks the church to agree to disagree while moving forward in hospitality.

The Recommendation on Ministry Policies proposes to remove the ban by allowing congregations who wish to do so to have a minister who is in a committed, same-gender relationship, while not requiring any congregation to do so.

The ELCA is the second largest mainline Protestant church in the U.S. with 4.6 million members.  At its 2007 national meeting, 82 ministers came out and introduced themselves and their partners.  In response, the body voted to ask bishops to “refrain” from punishing partnered clergy and congregations.  Despite this vote, the ban on clergy in partnered same-gender relationships was not changed and the impact of written policies continued to impact many clergy, families and congregations.  This year, more clergy, laity and family members are going on record about the important ministries shared by people who are LGBT who have faced discrimination up to now.

When the 82 Lutheran miniters came out in 2007 GLAAD worked closely with Lutherans Concerned, an LGBT affirming Lutheran group, to help those ministers tell their stories effectively in the media.

This year GLAAD is also working with affirming Lutheran's to ensure that as the ELCA once again takes up the issue of LGBT clergy, those voices will be fairly represented in mainstream coverage of the national meeting. GLAAD has media trained more than twenty top LGBT Lutheran ministers for interviews with USA Today and National Public Radio. And during the convention, GLAAD will be on-site to expand the coalition's media capacity. Win or lose, the world will know through the media that Lutheran LGBT advocates are challenging the ELCA to take a step toward full equality.

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