Presbyterians and Lutherans Opening Up To Gay Clergy In Partnered Relationships

February 24, 2009
Presbyterians and Lutherans are experiencing a sea change in attitudes about LGBT people and media is following it closely.  Both denominations have been slowly opening the doors to gay people after decades of advocacy.  LGBT groups are more engaged than ever in using media to win hearts and minds. The Presbyterian activists circulated a press release through Religion News Service  when early results suggested a positive trend—and Lutherans convened a teleconference call with journalists which garnered international coverage by The Associated Press and Reuters wire services.  On Thursday, February 19, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) released a draft statement on Human Sexuality that recommends recognition of  gay pastors in committed relationships. Lutheran gay and lesbian activists affirm the move but deeply disagree with the lack of support for marriage or even civil unions.  The statement now goes through one more review before it goes to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly next August for a final vote.  At the last Churchwide Assembly, in 2007, 82 ministers came out and the denomination recommended that bishops “refrain” from disciplinary action. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) is in the middle of 173 regional “presbyteries” voting on a constitutional amendment.  Surprisingly and significantly, 15 conservative presbyteries such as North Carolina, Alabama, rural Illinois, southwest Texas, Arkansas and others voted in favor of the amendment to remove the requirement of “chastity” for openly gay clergy—a defacto ban.  It could go down to the wire.  For an ongoing tally of the votes, go to Presbyweb.