Leaders of the 4.9-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) came to Orlando in August for their biennial Churchwide Assembly determined not to let differences on homosexuality divide them, as they have other mainline Protestant denominations.
"I do not believe for us as Lutherans, human sexuality is a church-defining or church-dividing issue," ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson said. "We can live with some ambiguity about these questions."
When the Lutherans left town after one week, the cracks were still visible, but the glue held. There was little talk of splits. Still, some conservatives worried the denomination has now given implicit support to same-sex unions.
A resolution proposed in January by a church task force urged the denomination to welcome "gay and lesbian persons into its life" and directed pastors and congregations "to discern ways to provide faithful care to same-sex couples." Despite its affirmation of a 1993 statement of the ELCA Conference of Bishops that found no biblical basis for same-sex blessings, this vaguely worded proposal was widely interpreted to allow for those very blessings.
Before the vote, conservative renewal groups, including Solid Rock Lutherans and WordAlone, spearheaded the removal of language about homosexual couples from the resolution, which then passed 670-323. However, conservative groups said the even more vaguely worded, amended resolution would allow local pastors to interpret it as they wish. Jaynan Clark Egland, head of WordAlone, said after the vote, "This assembly has propped open the door firmly" to blessing homosexual unions.
Another resolution would have ordained ministers who are part of "lifelong, committed, and faithful same-sex couples," under certain ...1