Local synod backs ordination of homosexual pastors
Resolution will go to national ELCA assembly in August
By ALICE L. CHANG
Posted: June 4, 2005
The Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution at its annual meeting Saturday recommending the Churchwide Assembly "permit gay and lesbian candidates in committed relationships to be considered for ordination on the same basis as other candidates."
Amid what is a contentious resolution, Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers said it was important to maintain unity within the church.
"We are committed to remaining united even amid our differences, recognizing our center is not on our opinions but rather it is in Christ," he said.
The recommendation is one of up to 65 that are expected to be delivered to the Churchwide Assembly, which in August will consider whether to bless same-sex unions and whether to allow homosexuals to serve as rostered leaders - pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
Discussion since late 1990s
The issue of homosexual unions and pastors has been discussed by the Greater Milwaukee Synod since the late 1990s. Homosexual issues have also been the subjects of intense debate by other denominations and were controversial in the most recent presidential election.
Nearly 20 synods are holding regional meetings this weekend, and it is unclear how many other synods have passed similar memorials, said John Brooks, a national spokesman for the ELCA, whose headquarters are in Chicago.
But, Brooks said, it is not unusual for the Greater Milwaukee Synod to pass such a resolution.
"The (Greater) Milwaukee Synod has a history of tending to be liberal on these matters," Brooks said. "The same has tended to be true historically in other metro areas."
The resolution components that will be recommended to the Churchwide Assembly are as follows:
• That individual congregations be allowed to disagree about whether to accept homosexual members and pastors.
• That homosexuals in committed relationships be allowed to serve as rostered leaders.
• That individual congregations be allowed to decide whether to bless committed same-sex unions.
The recommendation for the ordination of practicing homosexuals passed by a vote of 177-120.
The other two resolution components passed by such magnitude that votes were not counted.
Pastor Jennifer Thomas, 32, of Lake Park Lutheran Church on the east side of Milwaukee, said she was pleased with the results. "I believe the Gospel of Christ calls us to fully include everyone in the church. Homosexuality is not a sin," Thomas said.
But Pastor Jay Thorson, 45, of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Hubertus, disagreed with the vote. "Homosexual sexual behavior is a sin," he said. "I see the entire Bible as the inspired word of God. (Ordination of homosexuals) violates our understanding of the use of Scripture."
Two-thirds vote needed
For the Churchwide Assembly to revise national ELCA policies, two-thirds of the 1,100 voting delegates would have to approve a change.
The ELCA has 96,000 baptized members and 141 congregations in the Greater Milwaukee Synod, making it one of the largest Christian denominations in the area, second only to the Catholic Church.
Nationwide and in the Caribbean, the ELCA has 5 million baptized members and 11,000 congregations.