This week, Pastor Bradley Schmeling and Pastor Darin Easler, both openly gay and life-partners, were reinstated on the official roster of ministers of the ELCA Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as a result of changes in policy made at the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly. GLAAD worked closely with Lutherans Concerned to garner major media coverage for their efforts to implement full inclusion.
Three years before the policy shift, Schmeling told his bishop that he had found his partner for life. The bishop filed charges for violation of the-then policy that required celibacy of gay ministers. The trial ended with a ruling that said “…they found nothing wrong with his ministry or commitment to the work of the church, that they would hold him up as exemplary, and that they thought the policy was wrong and ought to be changed. But, they said that, obedient to the law, he was to be removed from the roster,” according to the Lutherans Concerned press release.
Rev. Schmeling’s congregation, threw a party to celebrate his commitment to Darin Easler, and kept him as their pastor for the last three years, even though the ELCA officially publicized the pulpit at St. John’s to be vacant. Rev. Easler served a congregation in Minnesota but was dropped from the roster because of his relationship with Rev. Schmeling. He was received in the United Church of Christ, which has inclusive policies, and is serving as a chaplain to patients and families in hospice care in Atlanta.
Rev. Schmeling said, “These are exciting days to be part of the church, and I'm looking forward to years ahead in ministry both with the church I love and with the partner that God has given me.”